Dalton High School tennis coach David Hilley expects at least one Region 7-4A championship — and he doesn’t think two titles are out of the question.
Hilley’s Catamounts and Lady Cats own Sub-region 7B-4A’s top seeds for the region tournament, which starts today at Lakeshore Park in Dalton.
Northwest Whitfield and South-east Whitfield are also competing in the 10-team brackets, in which the top four finishers earn berths for the Class 4A state tournament, which starts next week.
Hilley said he “would be disappointed” if both teams fell short of winning titles.
“That’s our goal for the year — to win a region championship,” he said. “We have-n’t done that in a while. It has been five years for the girls and eight for the boys. ... If we don’t get one of the two region championships, or possibly both, then it’ll be disappointing.”
The Cats and Lady Cats play at 3 p.m. today against the winner of first-round matchups between the No. 5 seed from Sub-region 7B and the No. 4 seed from 7A. The Cats will play either Cedartown or Northwest Whit-field, who play at 9 a.m. The Lady Cats face either Southeast Whitfield or Gilmer, who also play at 9 a.m.
At 10:30 a.m., Southeast’s boys, the 7B No. 4 seed, face Gilmer, which went 0-4 in 7A play. If the Raiders win, they will face River Ridge at 4:30 p.m. Northwest’s girls, the 7B No. 3 seed, face Cass at noon.
Other matches scheduled for today are Heritage-Catoosa girls versus River Ridge at 10:30 a.m., with the winner facing Cedartown at 4:30 p.m.; LaFayette girls versus Pickens at 1:30 p.m.; LaFayette boys versus Cass at noon; and Heritage boys versus Pick-ens at 1:30 p.m.
With the exception of the morning matches, state is at stake in all court action today — winners of those matches at noon or later will qualify for state — but the tournament is single-elimination until the semifinals, so there’s little margin for error early in the tourney.
Tournament semifinals are scheduled for 10 and 11:30 a.m. Thursday, with third-place matches at 2 p.m. and championships at 3:30 p.m.
Last season, both Dalton squads reached the Class 3A state tournament but lost in the first round. This year, they had an easy time with their sub-region schedules — the Cats and Lady Cats both swept all courts in four of their five sub-region matches.
Hilley said the way the tournament is designed — with the semifinals and finals on the same day — means stamina will play a part in who excels most.
“It’s a three-match tournament,” Hilley said. “You have to win multiple matches in one day and with matchups there are variables. ... We’ve got a chance. We’ve got the same thing. We still have to win two matches on Wednesday to get there.”
In 7A-4A, River Ridge’s boys went 4-0 in sub-region play and also beat Dalton 3-2 in a region crossover matchup that didn’t affect the league standings. The Cedartown girls did the same.
“They beat everybody 5-0 in their sub-region,” Hilley said of River Ridge. “If you look at it that way, and they beat us 3-2, they should have a leg up. ... We played (Cedartown’s girls) in the first round and won to go to state two years ago. They always play hard.”