Coach Brad Sanders has been setting trends for years. 19 region wins for boys tennis, 11 region wins for girls tennis, and so many trips to the final four that he has lost count. His best guess is more than 20. His legacy stretches over 26 years. The excellence of his program has lifted tennis across the southern part of the state as rivals have sought to beat the power house that is Bleckley tennis. Even Coach’s ever present floppy hat has become the trend for fans, coaches, and rivals alike.
This week the trend continued. The Bleckley county girls defeated Davidson Fine Arts in the elite eight to advance to the final four against a strong Berrien County team. The two teams met in Thomasville on May 2 to battle for a place in the state championship. Bleckley No. 1 singles, Abbey Sims, took out her opponent with an easy 6-0, 6-0 victory. The No. 1 doubles team of Jordan Williams and Regan Cole also handily defeated their opponents 6-1, 6-4. This 2 match advantage spurred No. 2 singles, Hanna Dykes, and No. 3 singles, Kate Sanders, to fight for 4-3 second set leads, but it was the no. 2 doubles who reached the finish line first. Jordan Barker and Caroline Thrower got off to a rocky start but managed to win the first set, and cheered on by a raucous Bleckley crowd, closed the tournament with a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Berrien. (Back: Jordan Williams, Bailey Odom, Flip Basby, Brad Sanders, Daroline Thrower, Emily Sanders, and Landa Cominy. Front: Hanna Dykes, Regan Cole, Kate Sanders, Abbey Sims, Jordan Barker.)
The Bleckley County Boys moved to the final four after defeating Screven County in the elite eight. Their final four opponent, Thomasville, had a phalanx of singles players waiting to do battle with the boys. No. 1 singles, Harsh Patel, fell to Thomasville’s no.1 who recently signed to play tennis at Lagrange College. No. 2 singles, Blake Bohannon, fought hard, but fell to the ranked no. 2 player from Thomasville. Bleckley doubles quickly evened the match with two masterful wins. No. 1 doubles, Will Collins and Dayton Cannon, easily defeated their opponents 6-0, 6-0. No. 2 doubles, Austin Bland and Conner Floyd, had no problems with their opponents either and won 6-2, 6-2. (Back: Brad Sanders, Melissa Barker, Will Collins, Dayton Cannon, Conner, Floyd, Parker Arnold, Flip Basby Front: Noah Paradis, Harsh Patel, Blake Bohannon, Bronson Sanders, Austin Bland.)