CONYERS - The Heritage boys tennis team comes into the Region 8-AAAA tournament on different footing this season.
Last year, the Patriots won the Region 8-AAAA South subregion title, but were largely an untested commodity. Untested that is, until Heritage walked away with the region championship and advanced all the way to the Final Four in Class AAAA.
This year, it's a whole different story for the Patriots, who again won the 8-AAAA South title with a perfect 10-0 mark.
"Last year, we kind of slipped into the tournament. Nobody really knew anything about us and we played well and won," Heritage boys coach Chuck Landy said. "This year, our expectations were a lot higher, so we've played tough teams throughout the season to get ready. We feel like we're, at least, match tough. We're looking to see what's going to happen."
By winning the subregion, the Patriots earned a first-round bye in the region tournament and will face the Loganville-Salem winner in the quarterfinals today at 3:30 p.m. in Danielsville.
The winner of that quarterfinal match earns a state tournament berth and advances to the semifinals, which is set for 4 p.m. Friday. The championship matches are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"We just have to worry about (today) right now and win (today)," Landy said. "If we take care of (today), we'll see what happens Friday."
The Heritage girls also earned the No. 1 seed from 8-AAAA South by posting a 10-0 mark in subregion play. The Lady Patriots will face the winner of the match between Alcovy and Winder-Barrow in the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m.
Last year, the Heritage girls won the subregion title and finished as the fourth-place team in the region. The Lady Patriots lost in the first round of the state playoffs.
"We're taking it one match at time. Now it comes to the magic number of three. You just have to win three matches, you don't look back and you move on to the next round," Heritage girls coach Brian Smith said. "There's some really good teams from the North subregion, so we're just going to try to play the best tennis that we have all season.
"We have to go out there, make shots, play relaxed and enjoy ourselves, while we try for our first region title."
The Rockdale boys and Salem girls are in the same boat as the Heritage squads after collecting second-place finishes in 8-AAAA South. Both squads just need one victory today to wrap up a state tournament berth.
The Bulldogs will face the winner of the match between Winder-Barrow and Eastside at 1:30 p.m. Rockdale posted an 8-2 record in subregion play.
The Lady Seminoles will face the Habersham Central-Rockdale winner in their quarterfinal match, also at 1:30 p.m. Salem registered an 8-2 mark in subregion play.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@ rockdalecitizen.com.