Manheim contemplated stepping down as early as last year when Walton defeated Peachtree Ridge in the state quarterfinals. Very quietly, she made it official earlier this semester, and is handing the reins to her current JV coach Christina Page.
When Manheim was asked why she decided to step down after maintaining a perfect win record and the longest all-sport winning streak in Georgia high school history, she said it wasn't because Walton's talent pool has run dry after graduating its entire starting lineup of mostly Division I players. She just didn't want to put any undo pressure of continuing her streak on the next wave of Lady Raider tennis players.
Walton's winning streak started in 2004 when Manheim took the helm. The Lady Raiders' most recent loss was against Chattahoochee in the 2003 state quarterfinals under former coach Bunny Hager.
The Lady Raiders received plenty of offseason recognition once the streak hit 147 last May. They were recognized by the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame last June as one of its 2011 Stars of the Year.
In early August, Manheim was awarded a plaque honoring her achievements that hangs at the Walton's tennis courts.
With that said, tennis teams from around the state are aware of Walton's success and want to be the ones that end the legendary streak. Realistically, Manheim knows the streak can't go on forever.
"(Eventually) they are going to lose," Manheim said. "And the thought of it being my first loss or that they disappointed me in that way, it's not fair to the girls. I couldn't do that to them. It's in my best interest and their best interest with only three returning. With nine new girls, Christy Page, who was JV coach, can start her own streak (if the current streak ends this season)."
Manheim knows playing under immense pressure this season is inevitable, but she felt the younger players may be more at ease keeping the streak alive if they were playing for the same coach they are already familiar with.
Had Walton's streak ended last season, the pressure would have been off and Manheim would have likely stayed aboard.
"Roberta meant a lot to this program," athletics director Christian Suttle said. She set the bar of having a winning tradition here at the school and helped maintained these athletes. I wished she could have stuck around longer but she made a decision and I respect the decision that she made."
A long list of contributors played major roles in Walton's success over the last eight seasons.
But it was two sets of classes that were the anchors of establishing and maintaining the streak - the Class of 2007 led by Cameron Ellis (Georgia), Katie Kilborn (Vanderbilt) and Kelly Tidwell (Richmond), and the Class of 2011 behind Emily Zabor (Alabama), Maxie Winberg (UConn) and Stephanie Falcon (UNC Greensboro).
Walton also had talented players such as Elizabeth Kilborn (Georgia Tech), Emily Lauten (Virginia Tech) and Ashley Lawrence (Wofford) who graduated in between.
The same winning streak established under Manheim is expected to continue in 2012, but Page wouldn't mind starting her own from scratch. She also knows the game, having launched Walton's JV team three years ago. She played high school tennis at Etowah and currently participates in ALTA.
"We are honestly not going to think about the streak," Page said. "
Only three players - juniors Emily Harte and Melissa Mashburn and sophomore Ansley Bridges - are projected to return from last year's team. However, Page said that experienced tournament players from JV as well as incoming freshmen will be competing for roster spots.