Here's a look at this year's Jefferson boys' tennis team:
•Coach: Dawson Bryan
•Key players: Marcus Berninger, James Smith, Luke Forrester and Chase Tyner
•Strengths: Senior Marcus Berninger, an all-region and all-area selection for three years, returns as do three starters from last year’s Final Four team: James Smith, Luke Forrester and Chase Tyner. “Those four will be needed to provide leadership for our younger players and help turn this group into a team who can build on the success of the last few years,” coach Dawson Bryan said. Berninger and Smith will serve as team captains. Jefferson also has 15 players on its roster, the program’s most ever. “We also have some guys that played JV last year that should provide some depth and flexibility for our lineup, so I am excited about that,” Bryan added.
•Weaknesses: Jefferson will be extremely young this season with just two seniors and two juniors on the roster. The Dragons lost three senior starters from last year’s squad. Most of the team will consist of freshmen and sophomores, “so they will be thrown in the fire so to speak a little this year,” Bryan said.
•Region outlook: Jefferson won the region title a year ago, but will have its work cut out for it to win another, according to Bryan, who said the region is strong. “But I think, in the long run, playing in a region like ours gets everyone prepared to play in the state competition,” he said.
•Season outlook: Jefferson’s schedule is loaded with tough non-competition including Buford, Gainesville, Peachtree Ridge and Elbert County, which were all state playoff teams last year. The Dragons will also participate in the Granger Invitational, one of the tougher high school tournaments in the state. “Throw our region schedule in the mix, and we have a very challenging schedule,” Bryan said. “Our guys understand that we schedule matches like this to get ourselves ready to play our best tennis at the end of the year. I look forward to how they step up and play on a big stage.”