The Raiders will likely be knocking on the door again this season, after making the state finals in 2009 and ’10, the quarterfinals in ’11 and the semifinals last season. The pieces are in place for the Raiders, who are returning two starters in singles play and two at doubles, plus several talented newcomers vying for starting positions.
Walton’s success could hinge on how many of the state’s top players are ineligible due to a recently passed Georgia High School Association rule. Players are no longer allowed to train during school hours, which has an effect on those who leave school early to attend afternoon drills.
Walton lost one key starter — junior Eric Wagasky at No. 1 doubles — to the new rule, coach John Evans said, but that shouldn’t stop the Raiders from taking a step forward this season.
Seniors Shaunish Mookerji and Cameron Mistr are back and could start out at 1 and 2 singles. Junior Liam Villante and sophomore Crews Enochs are also back after playing doubles and both could be in the running to play singles this season.
Freshmen Bailey Honig, Francis Yang and Trevor Croyder will make a case for the open positions vacated by Danny Bruce, who is now playing at Presbyterian, and Russell McCain.
“The newcomers are really talented and the returners have another year under their belts,” Evans said. “I feel like we’re going to be really competitive again.”
North Cobb is going to be extremely competitive as well, with everyone returning from last year’s state semifinal team.
Senior Jaryd Reese, junior Andre Canimo and sophomore Ronak Mody are returning to their singles posts. Senior Jacob Saunders and sophomore Richard Johnson are likely to team up at No. 1 doubles again, with senior Bradley Lahmann and junior Preston Lahmann potentially working together at No. 2.
“Our team has a normal amount of potential from last year, and we’re gaining four freshmen who are talented,” North Cobb coach Bonnie Reedy said. “It’s looking good for us if we can pull together and work hard.”
North Cobb could have its hands full in Region 4AAAAAA, with reigning state quarterfinalist Hillgrove returning a strong team behind seniors Scott Hill and Nick Orvino.
Pope also sustained casualties to the GHSA practice rule, with Austin Bates and Kyle Hartfield not returning to the singles lineup, Pope coach Vicki Kemper said. Both players helped lead the Greyhounds to a Class AAAA state title in 2011 and a pair of Region 5AAAA crowns over the past two seasons.
Pope will still be strong at doubles, with senior Rob Dickson and junior Rob Hines likely to play at No. 1, but it will have to restructure its singles lineup with junior Dominic Allan the only returning starter.
In Class A, defending state champion Whitefield Academy will have to make due without ace Kyle Childree, who is now playing for Boston College.
The Wolfpack’s new Region 6A rival, Walker, however, has potential to go deep in the state tournament after winning it all in 2010. The Wolverines are senior-laden and have experience behind singles players Austin Newsome and Alan Norsworthy.