Lakeside High School boys tennis coach Donnie Burch lost three key seniors from a 2007 team that won the school's 19th consecutive region championship.
He might have pegged this as The Year before it began. If so, he'd have been correct.
The Panthers boys tennis team failed in its bid for a 20th consecutive region title by losing to Greenbrier 4-0 on April 4 in Brunswick, Ga.
The win was Greenbrier's third against Lakeside this year after the Wolfpack swept both regular-season matches.
"We were a pretty loaded team last year," Burch said. "We had talented guys this year; they were just a lot younger."
The Wolfpack had won four consecutive region titles from 1997-2000, but none since joining Region 3-AAAA and competing against Lakeside each year.
Wolfpack coach Jennifer Lowery returned all of the team's key members from last year and added freshman Cory Jenkinson, who anchored the No. 2 singles spot.
"He gave us the depth we needed," Lowery said. "We didn't lose any, but we gained Cory."
The addition allowed the Wolfpack to celebrate on a day that coaches and players say turned out nice despite a forecast of gloomy weather.
The two teams will meet again after Masters Week. With their region tournament held earlier than most, the match will give each team a tune-up before the state tournament.
Greenbrier will play host to its first-round opponent as the region's top seed. Lakeside, as the No. 2 seed, will also open the state playoffs at home.
Wolfpack players will have plenty of time to soak up their accomplishment.
"It's surreal," Greenbrier senior Chase Duff said. "It's even greater knowing it would have been their 20th."
For at least one Wolfpack player, the moment was bittersweet. Players from both sides remain close throughout the year via their training at Petersburg Racquet Club.
"Most of us are really good friends," Greenbrier junior Parker LaSure said. "It was hard to go against them."
The Wolfpack swept each of the individual matches, but Lowery said the competition was closer than it had been during the regular season.
"It was a good match to watch," he said.
Undefeated run ends
for Lakeside girls tennis
Lakeside's girls tennis team ran through the regular season and first round of the Region Region 3-AAAA tournament without a loss.
The streak ended with a loss to Glynn Academy in the tournament final. It was only the third time in the team's history it failed to win a region championship.
The Panthers are still in good position for the state playoffs. They will be the host for their first round match as the region's No. 2 seed.
Evans girls finished third, and Greenbrier girls finished fourth.
"That really says a lot about the strength of our youth tennis programs in the CSRA," Lowery said.
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