Glynn Academy tennis is streaking like a meteor through the first month of the season.
Fresh off 4-1 wins against Brantley Tuesday, the Red Terrors’ most competitive matches are still ahead of them as they host Screven, Brookstone, Cambridge, Woodland, Lowndes, Bleckley and Lakeside Evans for the 15th edition of the Golden Isles Tennis Tournament.
While region matches are all that counts with regards to determining state championship seeding, this tournament is critical for head coach Burnett Rooks, who would like to use the weekend of dual matches as a measuring stick for how his team will compete against some of the state’s top talent when tournament time comes.
“This will be a good benchmark,” Rooks said. “We’d like to win it, but more than that, we want the good competition so when we get to the state playoffs we’ll be prepared for strong opponents.”
Jekyll Island Tennis Center, which has had a bit of a makeover after Hurricane Matthew cause considerable debris damage to the complex, will host the tournament. The project to resurface the clay court surface began in January.
The process of bringing in opponents for the tournament began even earlier than the repairs. Rooks starts preparation for filling the field in the fall, sending invitations to prospective coaches. He tries to build the most competitive field possible, and he bases his seeding mostly on precedent.
Glynn Academy’s strength of schedule has modeled somewhat of a crescendo coming into this tournament. The Red Terrors played some metro-Atlanta teams when they crossed the state for a LaGrange-based tournament last week.
“We’re not used to playing big hitters, so that was good for us because that’s who we’re going to play in state,” said senior Cole Paschal. “Lowndes and Lakeside Evans I know are pretty tough.”
Jekyll has hosted the tournament in the past. It makes for a better location than the courts at Glynn Academy’s home tennis complex, because the island venue can better accommodate parking while the Red Terror football team’s practice field is still under construction.
The biggest difference between the two complexes is the surface. The Jekyll Island Tennis Complex is completely clay, while Glynn Academy — and most high school complexes — are hard court. There are obvious differences in footing. Players need to prepare to approach their shots with a slide, but the ball also takes softer bounces off the clay surface.
While the Red Terrors haven’t practiced on the clay surface lately, they hardly struggled when they played a tournament at the complex two weeks ago. The Girls won the tournament and the boys placed in second overall.
There are no worries for No. 1 singles players Paschal and Sarah Murray. Both learned to play tennis on St. Simons Island’s Island Club clay courts, and practice on them during the offseason.
Murray said growing up on clay courts is an easier transition than learning to play on hard courts and switching to clay. It also gives her a chance to break out her new clay court shoes.
“It’s a lot easier to move from sliding to not sliding,” Murray said.
The Red Terrors are seeking to build off success from past seasons. The girls squad has won the last two tournaments, and Glynn Academy swept the boys and girls tournament last season. Both squads beat Lowndes, which is returning to the tournament this season. The girls sept Lowndes 5-0 last year, while the boys edged out Lowndes 3-2.
The tournament spans two days. The boys matches will start at 3:30 p.m. today against Screven. The Lady Terrors’ first matches are set for 4:40 p.m. today. Teams will return to the court Saturday for consolation matches at 8:30 a.m., semifinals matches at 10:15 p.m. and finals at 3:30 p.m.