The long drive down to Valdosta, GA, is never fun, especially when you have to fight Atlanta rush-hour traffic just to get out of town! But, our Varsity Raiders and Coach Evans had lost the coin toss and had to travel for the team’s semifinal match against Lowndes High School. Everyone headed South after school on Monday so they would have time to rest then get in a good warm up before Tuesday afternoon’s contest. It’s a good thing they did because Lowndes proved to be a much tougher opponent than anticipated.
Coach Evans had looked at the weather forecast and beseeched the boys to hydrate well in preparation for the 90+ degree temperatures they would face Tuesday afternoon. The boys were happy to comply, setting up a game of Hydration Pong at the hotel Monday night. I think Coach Evans was a bit startled when he saw the cups set up, but the boys assured him it was all about hydrating with water and Gatorade and not at all related to a game you might remember from your college days!
The next morning, Coach got the boys up pretty early to eat then head out for a hit. The facility where they played had 12 beautiful hardcourts and stands for viewing – not your typical high school venue.
As the start time of the match approached, the stands filled up quickly with Lowndes High School fans. Our guys had a small cheering section in comparison, but all the clapping and cheering in the world weren’t going to make the difference this time! Our Raider boys had come to play and to WIN, and they weren’t going to let anything stand in their way.
The Raiders came out a bit slow, maybe feeling some nerves after traveling all this way to play? But, they quickly got into their collective groove, winning in straight sets at 1 and 2 doubles and 3 singles to take the match 3-0. The 1 and 2 singles were both leading in a 3rd set when Walton secured the win, so those matches were left unfinished. No matter, though. The boys had accomplished their goal: a spot in Saturday’s State Championship Final.
The next match will be played about an hour south of our little suburb at a beautiful county park in Clayton. The Raiders’ opponents will be another Metro Atlanta team, Northview High School, that won the Division AAAAA title in 2014 then got moved to Division AAAAAA for this year. That team is filled with several talented tournament players, too, so it should be a great battle for the title! The Raider Girls will also be playing for the championship on Saturday at the same location. Let’s go, Raiders!