The Greater Atlanta Christian boys are a step away from earning their first state tennis championship since 2015.
The Spartans dominated McIntosh 5-0 in the Class 5A semifinal round and will play the winner of the Chattahoochee-Cambridge match for the state championship on May 10 in Rome.
GAC has been tested all season by a difficult schedule, playing non-region matches against state champions like Westminster and Pace Academy, traditional powers like St. Pius and Chamblee, and national powers Baylor and McCallie. And moving up in classification because of the new multiplier rule placed the Spartans in a tennis-heavy region that include Chattahoochee, Cambridge and Centennial.
“There are plenty of teams around us with good programs,” GAC coach Brett Harte said. “Having a competitive schedule helps us get ready for the state tournament.”
The Spartans traveled to Chattanooga in late March for a two-day event at the McCallie School. Not only did the trip provide excellent competition, it helped the team form stronger bonds. Harte also took the team to watch a match at the University of Georgia to get an idea of what the atmosphere would be like at the state meet.
The team is led by No. 1 singles player Jason Kim, a senior who has accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy. Kim has lost twice this year and came back to avenge one of those losses in the region title match against Chattahoochee. He has a Universal Tennis Rating of 11.
“He is the strongest player I’ve ever had on our team,” said Harte, who has been with the program for 15 years. “He’s got talent. He’s a hard worker and he’s a tremendous leader. He’s always willing to stick around a hit with some of the guys if they want.”
Kim won the decider in the 3-2 non-region match against mighty Westminster and picked up the winning point in the 3-0 victory over Decatur in the quarterfinals.
The No. 2 singles player in Martin Ticona, a senior from Colombia. He is a clay court wiz and carries a UTR of 9. Freshman Harrison Kemp is playing No. 3 singles. An experienced tournament competitor, Kemp joined the GAC program this fall.
“It’s a strong singles lineup,” Harte said. “We’ve had a lot of success getting three points out of the singles lineup.”
The No. 1 doubles team is sophomore Atlas Covey and Nico Warner, who played in the first two singles spots his first two seasons, took a break and asked to play doubles when he returned for his senior season. Covey is a rare talent who can hit a forehand with either hand.
The No. 2 doubles team is freshman Jack Morrison and sophomore Ayaan Valiani, who got together in midseason. There is a possibility that Jack Gressner could return for the championship game; the imposing 6-foot-5 lefthander suffered a back injury during the regular season.
In the state playoffs, GAC has beaten Villa Rica 4-0, Calhoun 5-0, Decatur 3-0 and McIntosh 5-0.
GAC has won seven state championships, also taking titles in 2001, 2003, 2005-08 and 2015. The Spartans lost in the semifinal round last season.
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