The Richmond Hill Middle School girls enjoyed a very rewarding first year of tennis. About two dozen 6th, 7th and 8th grade students participated in the inaugural program. The season ran during September and November, with its culmination at a regional tournament in Sylvania.
The girls began the season with three straight wins, including victories over Effingham, Burke County and last year’s region winner, Screven County. Standouts for the Middle Cats included Breanna Cota at number 1 singles, Paige Ward at number 2 singles, and Charlsie Johnson at number 3 singles. The first loss was to a stubborn SE Bulloch team.
The number 1 doubles team of Makela Bergsmith and Jada McCleod went near-perfect for the year, as did the No. 2 duo of Bailey Croy and Ashley Pentecost with successive wins over Ebeneezer and Langston Chapel.
The RHMS team earned a shot at the title and made it all the way to the Final Four before bowing out.
They finished the year 5-3 with a third place finish in the tournament, but more importantly established themselves as a team to be reckoned with.
Pat Paruso, coach of the RHHS tennis team, is also the coach for the new RHMS tennis program which will give him some additional training time with those who decide to take the sport of tennis to the next level.
"The girls made up for their lack of experience with a strong desire to play the game and the willingness to learn it," Paruso said. "The entire roster played several matches and gained the experience that was needed this year. This is a group of young girls that will be playing tennis for the rest of their lives. They grew from a bunch of ragtag kids into an organization of competitive tennis ladies."
The first RHMS Tennis Team was made up of the following kids: (8th grade) Kristy Garcia, Charlsie Johnson, Alsia Blaine, Jada McLeod, Laiana Bonicenha, Breanna Cota, Kassi Derf, Chantele’ Collings-Faulkner, Ellen Clark, Carrie Rivera, Paige Ward, (7th grade) Rhiannon Baer, Bailey Croy, Mallory Ingram, Samantha Tioaquen, Ashley Clark, Lauren Neal, Makela Bergsmith, (6th grade) Bailey Bryant, Katelyn Sahlberg, Rachel Kicklighter and Ashley Pentecost.