CONYERS - The Heritage tennis teams are looking to keep their momentum going this spring.
Last year, the Heritage boys advanced to the Class AAAA final four after winning the Region 8-AAAA championship and the 8-AAAA subregion title.
With six key players back from last year's squad, the Patriots are looking to pick up right where they left off. Heritage posted a 22-2 overall mark last season, including a 10-0 mark in the subregion.
"We have a chance to once again put a very good team on the court," Heritage boys coach Chuck Landy said. "Our top six players have all improved since last season. The key will be some of our other guys working and competing to get a spot.
"We have a very unselfish group that is willing to do what's best for the team. Fortunately, we have enough guys who are willing to work that there is competition every day in practice."
Back for the Patriots this season are seniors Brad Hardin, J.J. Ramsey, Jacob Zirbel and Blake Craft; junior Jonathan Stone and sophomore Zach Landy. All six players were first-team selections on the Citizen's 2007 All-Area Tennis Team.
Stone was the Citizen's 2007 Boys Tennis Player of the Year and played in the No. 1 singles post. Landy suffered only one loss playing at No. 3 singles last year. The doubles teams of Ramsey-Zirbel and Craft-Hardin also return intact.
The only key loss off last year's team was Luke Hendrix, who played No. 2 singles.
"Our focus is getting our guys ready to compete every time we go out. We've gone out and got some tough matches with some of the best teams in the state," Landy said. "There may be a few bumps in the road, but we feel it will help prepare us for the region and state tournaments."
For the Heritage girls, the biggest change is at coach, where Brian Smith takes over for Darrell Huckaby. Smith, a longtime Heritage coach, shifts over to girls tennis from girls track.
"Although we are a very young team this season, we have high expectations for ourselves," Smith said. "We have set goals to win the subregion and region and be competitive in the state playoffs. We have a lot of enthusiasm for the game of tennis, plus a good work ethic and attitude."
The key returning players this spring for the Lady Patriots are Taylor Maloney, Christine Harper and Stephanie Humphries. Maloney, who played singles last year, and Harper, who played doubles, were both first-team picks on the All-Area Team.
Heritage's key losses off last year's team were Maria Kelly and Reba Williams in singles.
Smith does have one concern as his team opens its season today against Union Grove at the Heritage courts.
"My one concern is we don't have a lot of high school level tennis experience," he said.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.
SideBar: At A Glance
· Teams: Heritage tennis
· Coaches: Chuck Landy (boys), Brian Smith (girls)
· Last year: Heritage boys 22-2, won Region 8-AAAA championship and 8-AAAA South subregion title, advanced to Class AAAA final four; Heritage girls 15-5, finished fourth in 8-AAAA, won 8-AAAA South subregion title, lost in first round of Class AAAA playoffs
· First match: 4 p.m. today vs. Union Grove