New region gives Alcovy tennis better playoff shot

COVINGTON - Moving from Region 8-AAAA to Region 4-AAAA will make both Alcovy squads competitive as they try to make it to the Class AAAA state playoffs.

"I feel that moving to Region 4 AAAA will benefit us tremendously. Region 8-AAAA was loaded with talent and we are looking forward to this transition," third-year Alcovy girls coach Marcia Johnson-Watkins said.

Even though Alcovy will not have to contend with teams such as Heritage and Dacula, who made it to the state quarterfinals last season, they are still going to have to work for their trip to postseason play against Ola, Dutchtown and Stockbridge.

The Alcovy girls are hoping another year of experience will help them improve on last year's 3-15 record.

Returning from last season are Regan Bowers, Alora Fuller, Jordan Shull, Kimberly Rary, Mary Wright and Lea McDonald.

Johnson-Watkins also has several newcomers, which could bring an instant influence to the team.

"Leah Anderson transferred from Grayson and will make an immediate impact. Mary Ruth Davis played as an eighth grader last year on our JV squad," Johnson-Watkins said. "We had a great group that played on our JV squad last year that will insure that there will be competition for the doubles and singles spots."

Battling for the three singles spots are Bowers, Anderson, Davis and Fuller.

Competition is also fierce for the doubles positions with six sets of teams vying for one of two slots.

Playing for the doubles teams are Shull and Stephanie Waits; Wright and Ali Wardingley; Rary and McDonald; Ashley Alverez and Maycee Smith; Katie Neihoff and Ashley Paul; and the Ashleys - Jones and Grant.

Although advancing to the playoffs and improving with each match is a goal for the girls, Johnson-Watkins hopes the team gets something else out of the season.

"I want the girls to gain self confidence in themselves everyday. I want them to become more comfortable and competitive," the Alcovy coach said. "Our main goal is to win a region championship, but ultimately show good sportsmanship along the way."

Alcovy boys coach Melinda Morrow said her squad has the potential to make it to the Class AAAA playoffs.

"Our team goals at this point are to make it to the state tournament, hopefully by winning the region. I know we have a really good chance at winning our region this year," Morrow said. "We lost some good guys, but I believe our younger players will step up this year. I know that if the boys continue to work hard, we will see results."

With three returning starters from last season, Zach Bowers, Michael Hildebrand and Conner Avery, Morrow is counting on some of the new players and a change in the lineup from last year to make things happen.

"I am hoping Zach Bowers is going to step up this year as a singles player, and we added some freshmen to the lineup," Morrow said. "Both Jay Anderson and Jake Cowan will see playing time this year as freshmen."

While Bowers and Hildebrand are going to be Alcovy's No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, the rest of the team has not been solidified.

"My lineup is very undecided right now," Morrow said "I am hoping to be able to move some players around into different positions until we get into the region schedule."

Jockeying to get the No. 3 singles spot are Anderson and Ryan Azar with Cowan, Avery, Matthew McNeil, Linden Gonzalez, Jon Sherrer and Jay Locklair competing for doubles positions.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.