Tony Dragon’s focus, as it should be, is on the present. But no one could blame the Richmond Hill tennis coach if he paused to take a look at the future.
Actually, Dragon has done that and he likes what he sees.
The Wildcats boys and girls teams are struggling in their first year in Class 7A but that was to be expected as both lost heavily to graduation and find themselves in a rebuilding year.
The boys are 7-8 following a 5-0 win over Calvary Monday afternoon while the girls knocked off the Cavaliers, 3-2, to boost their record to 5-9. Both find themselves in the position of having a play-in match in Region 1-7A in order to qualify for the GHSA state playoffs.
The region play-in will be March 30, Dragon said, against an opponent and at a site to be determined. Having completed region play the boys are currently fourth and the girls are fifth.
With only five teams in the region the winner of the play-in match is assured of a spot in the state playoffs. Both Wildcats teams have made the playoffs every year since 2017.
In GHSA records dating back to 2010 both the boys and girls have been remarkably consistent in reaching post-season play. Both teams missed in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Neither has been able to advance past the second round.
Following the match with Calvary the Wildcats will conclude regular season play with home matches at Henderson Park on Thursday against West Laurens and March 28 against Savannah Country Day. The region tournament is April 11 at Camden County.
“It’s been a rebuilding year for the girls,” said Dragon who is in his fifth season. “We lost four seniors. We only have one senior girl out of 10. For that matter we have only two senior boys out of 10.
“The boys have played really well,” Dragon said. “We’ve won some close matches and we’ve lost some close ones. It’s been that kind of year.”
The girls, Dragon said, got off to a fast start before suffering a setback when junior Kate Swindell, who played No. 2 singles, was lost for the season due to injury.
“That left a big hole,” Dragon said, “but we’ve had some girls step up. We’ll have our top seven back and I feel pretty good about it (next year). These girls are on track to grow and get better.”
Sophomore Cayley Hall plays No. 1 singles and junior Sarah Hunt has stepped up to fill the No. 2 spot. Behind her is junior Emily Colbert.
Brooklyn Bonner, the team’s lone senior, juniors Sabrina Mori and Melina Taylor, sophomore Lilian Jones and freshman Addison Shultz all play doubles.
Adjusting to a new region has been more of a challenge for the girls than the boys, Dragon said. And it’s not necessarily talent but it’s facing teams who are bigger, stronger and older.
“Talent-wise it’s really strong at the top, especially on the girls’ side,” Dragon said. “Physically they’re bigger and stronger than what we’ve been seeing which has been a bit of a surpris
“But we’ve held our own in a lot of matches. They’re older…they’ve got some age on us but we’ve competed well. I feel we’re a year away from being with them.”
Senior Alex Krompak plays No. 1 for the boys and the Yang brothers, junior Cedric and senior Bryan, are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Juniors Pathik Patel, Ahmad Jaber, Jack Bennett and sophomore Nick Daly make up the doubles teams
“The physical difference is not as evident with the boys,” Dragon said. “We’re excited about the future. We’ve got 10-12 we can rotate and there’s not a lot of difference. We’ve got some kids coming who can compete right away.
“With the boys and girls both we’ve been a point or a match away. The boys lost 3-2 matches to Colquitt and Valdosta. I really think once the boys get to the region tournament they will compete well.”