A look at this year's Jackson County boys' tennis team:
•Coach: Wayne Brooks
•Key players: Kade Graves, Nicholas Bergeron, Drake Tatar, Bo Reeves, Gabriel Lockridge, Tyler Wester, Conrad Satkofsky, Anderson Ruffner, Alexander Julian and Garrett Julian.
•Strengths: Even with the loss of Kyle Graves to graduation, Jackson County returns a wealth of talent and experience, led by standout singles player Kade Graves. Graves, with a 32-5 record in singles play, has been an all-region selection the past two years. Nicholas Bergeron returns with a 52-4 record, while Drake Tatar and Bo Reeves are both 17-5 in their Panther careers. Brooks also pointed to the skill and athleticism of the squad’s new players, a group that includes Anderson Ruffner, Alexander Julian and Garett Julian.
•Weaknesses: None listed
•Region Outlook: Jackson County and Jefferson will likely again vie for the region title. Meanwhile, multiple teams in the region will return a full complement of players, according to Brooks. The Panthers, who finished as Region 8-AAA runners-up last year, will look to advance to the region title match for a fourth-straight year and win their third region title under Brooks. “The players are hungry for their third region title,” the coach said. “I know we have a target on us after three years of making the region finals, but we will be prepared to battle through for the title. My expectation would be a first or second-place finish.”
•Season Outlook: The Panthers will be challenged with non-region matches against Oconee County, Flowery Branch and Commerce. Jackson County will also play in the Jekyll Jam, Marietta Spring Classic and Grainger Invitational tournaments, all which will present a gauntlet of top opponents. “I try to schedule the best teams in the state because, to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Brooks said. The coach said his team has a chance at an undefeated season, “but we will have to stay determined and focused to achieve this feat.” Brooks also pointed to the state tournament path for the winner of Region 8-AAA. “If we win the region, as I suspect that we can, we have a great opportunity to make the Elite Eight before we face a private school like Westminster, Pace Academy or Lovett,” Brooks said. “So, we look to have a successful season, and if we can navigate the state draw, we could have the sky as our limit.”