Boys and girls varsity tennis teams win state tournaments

On Saturday, May 7, two of the most decorated athletic program at Westminster, the varsity boys and girls tennis teams, won the state championship, the boys for the sixth year in a row. These victories were set by successes earlier in the season, most notably the Buckhead Rotary Tournament earlier this year, where the boys team secured the coveted first-place trophy in the annual tournament, providing an important testament toward the prominence of this year’s team.

The Buckhead Rotary Tennis Tournament gave top high school tennis teams the chance to compete against each other, regardless of their school’s division. This year, Westminster beat multiple 6A powerhouses, such as Walton, Norcross, and Lambert, ultimately winning the Rotary for only the third time in past 35 years. It is certainly true that the glory of winning the Rotary pales in comparison to the glory of winning state, but this smaller-scale tournament served as an important indicator in the potential of the tennis team, and in this year’s case, it also preserved the team’s undefeated season at 22-0.

The goals for the season were quite predictable, as the team had won 44 state championships, 16 more than any other boys program at Westminster. While winning the state championship is often viewed as the most prioritized goal, head tennis coach Ralph Geeza values upstanding character among all of his players in addition to their success on the court.

“The goals for this year’s tennis team were to win the state championship in May,” said Geeza, “keep all of my players out of trouble, build character, graduate all of our seniors, and to potentially have the tennis season with the most wins ever in Westminster history.”

At the start of the season, most of the members knew that the team possessed a great amount of talent, as the team only lost one player, Connor Hutchins, from last year’s team. Their results at Rotary essentially solidified the players’ conceptions.

“Before Rotary, I felt that our team was as strong as ever and had a lot of potential,” said senior Venkat Tummala. “After Rotary, I feel like we’re the strongest team in the state and one of the best in the school’s history.”

Generally, it is assumed that the highest level of high school tennis is played in divisions such as 5A or 6A. Westminster disproves this misconception to others. The team’s victory at Rotary shows that they are capable of competing with any team in the state, regardless of their size or past meetings.

“For years, schools like Walton have been beating us pretty handily,” said senior Mac Griffith. “Now, after beating Walton 4-1, I’m under the impression that we belong among the elite tennis teams in Georgia.”

It is not every year that the tennis team completes an undefeated regular season, and on top of that, wins first place in the Rotary. However, this team’s history is accustomed to success even though Geeza believes that there are some other aspects that separate this team from those of the past.

“What’s special about this team is that we have five seniors in the top seven, each with state championship experience,” said Geeza. “Also, our complementary players, including sophomores Casey Monyak and Ryan Suddath, add so much personality to the team. They always show up to practice ready to go, and even when they goof off too much, they still make practice much more enjoyable for all of us.”

With only a couple weeks left in their high school tennis career, and for those not playing college tennis, only a couple weeks left in their team tennis career, the seniors shared what they thought that they would miss the most from this team.

“My favorite part of the team, and what I will miss most, is Luke Zhou’s display of commitment,” said Tummala. “His two practices and maybe one match attended truly embody the dedication the program is all about.”

In a show of pure humility, the seniors also reflected on what they actually learned from the underclassmen on the team.

“I feel like Wilson Wheeler really helped me learn how to hit a heavy kick serve,” said Griffith. “Sometimes tensions can get high on the court, especially when it’s a tight match, so seeing Wilson’s ability to reliably spin in his second serve, hence his nickname, Ol’ Reliable, really served as a guide for me in those close moments.”

The Rotary tournament, though small and often overlooked, will always hold a special place in the heart of Westminster tennis players.

“On paper, the Rotary doesn’t seem nearly as important as the state championship,” said Geeza. “However, I feel that Rotary serves an important purpose in giving us an evaluation of our team, while also giving us the ability to compete against competitive schools.”