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Friday January 27th, 2023 7:47PM

Tennis: 2023 campaign set to begin Monday

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

The current round of reclassification by the Georgia High School Association, and the exodus of dozens of private schools to the GIAA, has caused some interesting movement for the state’s tennis programs.

Of the 16 state champions from the 2022 season -- boys and girls combined -- 10 moved to new classifications. Two classifications -- 6A and 4A -- now house a pair of defending state champions each.

With the 2023 campaign scheduled to get under way beginning Monday, several Northeast Georgia area teams are hoping to continue or improve on last year’s showings.

On the boys side, two teams -- Jefferson and Cherokee Bluff -- advanced to the semifinals. But both have now moved up a class (the Dragons to 5A and the Bears to 4A) for the 2023 season. Buford (6A) and Riverside Prep (2A) advanced to the Elite 8 but the Wolves will now be in 7A and Riverside moved over to the GIAA.

For the girls, Rabun County advanced to the semifinals in 2A and Commerce made it the Final 4 in Class A Public. But now both will be in the new Class A Division 1 classification, and both are now in Region 8-A D1 as well, making that a stout region along with quarterfinalist Lake Oconee Academy as well.

But the biggest news for the reclass in tennis is the movement of the defending state champions.

On the boys side, Lake Oconee, the A Public champion last year, is now in Class A D1. Wesleyan, the A Private champ, is now in Class 3A, and specifically in Region 7-3A with many of the Northeast Georgia-area teams.

Pace Academy, the Class 2A champ, and Westminster, the Class 3A champ, both are now in Class 4A. Marist, the defending Class 4A champ, has moved up to 6A, which still has defending champion Johns Creek.

It’s much the same story for the girls. Wesleyan, the A Private champ, is now in Class 3A, and specifically in Region 7-3A.

Pace Academy, the Class 2A champ, and Westminster, the Class 3A champ, both are now in Class 4A. Marist, the defending Class 4A champ, has moved up to 6A, which still has defending champion North Atlanta.

For the boys in 2022, Buford was the Region 8-6A champ, advanced to Elite 8, but lost to eventual state champ Johns Creek. The Wolves moved up to Class 7A and should challenge for the Region 8-7A title in 2023.

Gainesville and North Forsyth, neither of which made the playoffs in 2022 in Region 6-7A, moved down and should be able to challenge for a playoff spot in Region 8-6A. Jackson County, the No. 3 seed from 8-5A in 2022, also should be in the mix, as well as Habersham Central, who was the Region 8-6A runner-up but lost in the first round last season.

Jefferson was the No. 3 seed from 8-4A and advanced to the semifinals. Branch was the fourth-seed and lost in the first round and both moved up to Region 8-5A. They should be able to challenge for a playoff spot.

Cherokee Bluff won Region 7-3A and advanced to the semifinals. North Hall was 7-3A runner-up and lost in the second round. Both have moved up to 8-4A, which still has defending region champ and semifinalist North Oconee. Those three should battle for the region title.

Lumpkin County and Dawson County from Region 7-3A both lost in the first round. With North Hall and Bluff both moving up they could challenge for a top two spot. But Region 7-3A also got the addition of defending Class A Private state champion Wesleyan.

East Jackson, now in Region 8-2A, advanced to the playoffs last year in 8-3A. The Eagles will be joined by three other playoff teams from 2022. Banks County lost in the first round but Region 8-2A had both Fellowship Christian, a quarterfinalist in Class A Private, and Athens Academy (Sweet 16), both move into the region during the current reclassification cycle.

Riverside Prep advanced to the quarterfinals in Class 2A and Lakeview Academy in Class A Private but both have moved over to the GIAA.

Commerce in Class A Public lost in the second round in Class A Public.

For the girls, Buford was the Region 8-6A champ, advanced to Elite 8, but lost to eventual state runner-up Centennial. The Lady Wolves are now in Class 7A, and 8-7A in particular, but they are the only current members to advance in the playoffs in 2022.

Habersham Central was the No. 4 seed in Region 8-6A and will be joined by Jackson County, who was the No. 3 seed from 8-5A and advanced to the second round. North Forsyth and Gainesville, neither of whom made the playoffs in Class 7A last season, have moved into the region, which should be wide open this season.

Flowery Branch advanced to the second round as the No. 3 seed from 8-4A and Jefferson lost in the first round to eventual state champion Marist. But both are now in Region 8-5A, which still has defending region champ and quarterfinalist Greenbrier, and Loganville, who lost in the Sweet 16.

North Hall won Region 7-3A, Cherokee Bluff was 7-3A runner-up and both advanced to the second round. Both are now in Region 8-4A, which still has defending champion North Oconee and runner-up Madison County. That also should be a fun region to watch.

Lumpkin County and Dawson County from 7-3A both lost in the first round, and like the boys, Region 7-3A got the addition of defending state champion Wesleyan.

East Jackson has moved down to Region 8-2A while Athens Academy, who advanced to the Elite 8 in Class A Private before losing to Wesleyan, joined as well. Banks County, which advanced to the second round, is the only other team to make the playoffs last season in the new configuration.

Rabun County advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Pace Academy in Class 2A. The Lady Wildcats will now be in Class A Division 1 and will be joined in the new region with Commerce, which made the semifinals in Class A Public in 2022.

Lakeview Academy made the GHSA playoffs in Class A Private but lost in the first round to eventual state runner-up George Walton, who also went to the same GIAA region with the Lady Lions.

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