Lakeside High School wrapped up another region tournament championship Tuesday as the Panthers' reign over Columbia County tennis continued. The Lakeside boys team has won every region title since the school opened in 1988.
Seniors Jordan Walters and Woody Blount and junior Rich Pugh went a perfect 3-0 in the region finals against Wayne County to claim the title.
More impressively, the Lakeside trio are undefeated in matches for the entire season. Pugh said the team is just warming up.
"It gets fun at state," he said. "We're out there now, and we're not really pumped up. At state it's a bigger deal than just a regular season match."
The state tournament comes as no surprise to a school that's fielded a state playoff team every year since before any of its current players were born. No Lakeside tennis team, however, has ever won a state championship.
That could change this year, Walters said.
"I think we're stronger this year," he said. "Our top four guys have all had another year to mature and progress."
The Panthers will see their real test come deeper into the state tournament when the team faces harder competition. Atlanta private schools such as Marist, Woodward Academy and St. Pius X make for a tough AAAA state tournament field, Lakeside boys coach DavidArrington said.
"The 5A tournament is easier than the 4A tournament because of those private schools," he said. "Woodward Academy is our arch nemesis. We've met them five years in a row in the quarterfinals. We finally beat them last year."
Lakeside wouldn't meet Woodward Academy in this year's state tournament until the state finals.
The Lakeside girls also claimed a region title Tuesday. The championship came after wins over Greenbrier and Evans high schools in the same day.
Greenbrier made a charge toward the finals when No. 1 singles player Christine Edell beat Lakeside freshman Kay Barksdale in straight sets. The Lady Panthers survived with wins from the other single and doubles matches. Barksdale rebounded in the finals to beat Evans' Amanda Vincent 6-0, 6-0. Lakeside's Rebecca Shay and Meha Jha also earned singles victories in the finals for a region championship.
"We have a solid seven, and that's what you need," Lakeside girls coach Donnie Burch said. "We're looking pretty good for the state tournament right now."
The Evans girls will join Lakeside in state tournament play after their second straight runner-up region finish. The Lady Knights rebounded despite losing five seniors from last season's squad and will play host to their first round state tournament match.
"The girls have come together and have been playing more successfully," Evans girls' coach Robin Santagata said. "We lost our No. 1, No. 2 and a senior at each doubles position from last year. So, I'm proud of them."
Greenbrier's boys and girls also qualified for state competition with first-round region tournament wins over Evans and Effingham County. respectively.
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