Tigers plant their seeds
High school tennis coaches have filled out their brackets.
No, not for March Madness.
For the District 3-3A tournament.
Columbia met with the district’s other coaches last week to seed their players for the tournament that begins Monday and runs through Tuesday.
The Lady Tigers, who finished fourth at districts last season, are primed for a run that could go through regionals and beyond after being seeded first at both doubles spots and four of five singles spots, with only No. 1 Cassidy Lear seeded second.
Seeding was based on the players’ regular season records in district play, which was dominated by the Lady Tigers. Each match won at the district tournament gives the team a point, with the top two teams at the end of moving on to regionals.
Players seeded at the No. 1 line in singles and doubles also have a chance to qualify for regionals individually.
Tournament play is also a little different. Players play a best-of-three-set match after playing eight-game pro sets throughout the regular season. But CHS girls coach Tabatha McMahon is extremely confident in her team, especially after stellar play from No. 3 Brittany Helms, No. 4 Chase Broome and No. 5 Faith Johnson in singles this season.
“If we continue to play our game and run at our No. 3, 4 and 5 positions, then we should be doing well in accumulating points for the team,” McMahon said. “But districts is so different than regular play. I’ve seen other teams come in and just fall apart in districts.”
Lear, Helms, Broom and Johnson, along with No. 2 Megan Zahnle, don’t expect that to happen to the Lady Tigers.
“You don’t want to jinx yourselves, but we’ve got a better-than-good chance just in terms of our district play to this point,” McMahon said. “At this point, the girls are seasoned. They’ve been playing at their best. They’re not overconfident but they’re confident, which is really exactly where you want to be.”
The girls will play their tournament at MaliVai Washington in Jacksonville while the boys will play at Oakleaf. No. 3 Daniel Rendel, No. 4 Reid Wherli and No. 5 Brandon Helms are all seeded first in their brackets, while No. 1 Akash Ghandi is seeded third behind Atlantic Coast and Robert E. Lee and No. 2 Colin Broome is seeded second behind Atlantic Coast.
The No. 1 doubles team of Ghandi and Broome is seeded second behind Atlantic Coast while the No. 2 duo of Christian Chiong and Wehrli is seeded first for the Tigers, who finished third at districts a season ago.
“The thing is, we have a chance at winning districts,” Columbia boys coach Tom Moore said. “We have a good chance if everybody plays up to their potential.”
The boys are also playing on clay for the first time, so Moore has had his players practicing at the Tennis Forever Academy in preparation for the tournament.
“It’s going to be a tough match … if we (play) the way I think we should, then we should win districts,” Moore said. “I hate to say that, but the boys can do it. They really can.”