Coach of the Year: Latest crop leads Manheim's team
by Adam Carrington
May 25, 2011 12:00 AM | 2619 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roberta Manheim
Roberta Manheim
Walton's girls tennis team now holds the state's undisputed record of consecutive wins in any sport.

It all started in 2004, when Roberta Manheim took the reins as head coach. Under her direction, the Lady Raiders have won 147 straight matches, eight straight region titles and eight straight state titles.

The record was officially set March 3 when Walton defeated Woodstock for win No. 135 - besting the previous record of 134 set by the Taylor County High School girls basketball team from 1968-72.

According to the National High School Sports Record Book, the Lady Raiders now hold the nation's sixth-longest winning streak in girls tennis.

Walton went on to clinch the Region 5AAAAA tournament, beating a scrappy Etowah team in the final.

In the state tournament, Walton upended then-No. 2 Peachtree Ridge in the quarterfinals, behind a three-set victory at No. 3 singles by a cramping Stephanie Falcon, and went on to sweep Norcross for its eight straight title.

Manheim, who has yet to lose during her eight-year tenure at Walton, is the 2011 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Tennis Coach of the Year, winning the honor for the fourth straight year.

"I really don't think about the numbers," Manheim said when asked about the streak. "I know the girls are aware of it when they get on the court and I try to take that pressure off of them. You can't think about what's happened before and you can't worry about what's coming up next."

Manheim knows Walton is under the radar now, and she knows other talented teams are gunning for the Lady Raiders.

Now that she has to replace her entire starting lineup before next season, Manheim was asked how she would react if the streak should end next season.

"(Against Peachtree Ridge), I kept thinking to myself, there are people who lost everything they own in a tornado," said Manheim, thinking back to the match played one day after the storms that wreaked havoc across the Southeast. "There are people out there who lost their homes and their lives. When the day comes - if the day comes - and we do lose, life that we know it will continue to go on. It's just a tennis match."

Manheim's undefeated journey started seven years ago when she inherited a talented freshman class led by current Georgia standout Cameron Ellis, Katie Kilborn and Kelly Tidwell. That class was largely responsible for Walton's first four state championships, and the first 80 wins of the streak, before the trio graduated in 2007.

Knowing she had a few positions to fill, Manheim had to rely on another crop of freshman to step in and carry the tradition for at least another four years.

Then came Emily Zabor, Maxie Weinberg, Stephanie Falcon, Kayla Brady and many more.

One of that group's biggest tests as freshmen was the 2008 state quarterfinal against Brookwood, the team Walton beat in the 2007 state final. With many of the Lady Broncos' players returning, Walton edged out a 3-2 win that came down to Weinberg and Brady's three-set come-from-behind win at No. 2 doubles.

In 2009, Walton didn't lose an individual match until the state final. A year later, the Lady Raiders faced challenges against Peachtree Ridge and Centennial in the state tournament, but managed to secure its seventh win.

With eight state titles and nine seniors graduating, Manheim is back to where she was three years ago, when she wondered if there would be another freshman class to continue the winning streak.

When asked about having to replenish her roster, Manheim said she is taking a wait-and-see approach. While Walton doesn't seem to be at a loss for talented - the Lady Raiders have been well-stocked with year-round tournament players for many years - the future is unknown.

"I haven't really gotten that far," Manheim said. "Four years ago, when Cameron and Katie and all of those girls left and everyone asked, 'What are you going to do?' I said, 'I'll worry when the time comes.' I now have the same thing with another spectacular group of seniors leaving. Again, I'll worry about it when the time comes."
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