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Nothin' new - Lady Gamecocks in Elite 8 for 16th time in a row

            SYLVANIA — Death, taxes, and a spot in the quarterfinals of the GHSA state playoffs.

            For the Screven County girls, success on the tennis court is just about as sure a bet as there is.

            Today at 1 p.m., the Lady Gamecocks (21-3) travel to Thomasville for the Elite Eight of the state playoffs — a 16th consecutive year that Screven has advanced to the quarterfinals or farther.

            “We have a tradition of getting here, and we’re definitely proud of that,” said Screven coach Diane Freeman. “But each year, it’s a new team that is going, so it’s always a new experience. Our girls are very excited and ready to go.”

            The Gamecocks roll into today’s matchup on the heels of two impressive showings in the opening rounds of the playoffs.

            In the first round, Pierce County (No. 3 seed, Region 2-AA) made the long trip to Sylvania, only to get a hostile greeting from Screven, which pounded out an easy 5-0 victory.

            The second round brought Cinderella story Cook to town.

            The Lady Hornets — No. 4 seed out of Region 1 — shocked top-seeded Howard, but had no such luck against Screven as the Gamecocks took another 5-0 win.

            “We have been very focused in the playoffs from what I’ve seen,” said Freeman. “I was a bit concerned with Cook. They were much better than we anticipated, but the girls responded well, and the scores of the matches show that we were playing very well, even against a good team.”

            Now, Screven will have to prove that it can keep up the good play on the road.

            Thomasville (No. 1 seed, Region 1) has been hot throughout the year. The Lady Bulldogs sport a 15-6 record, and completed their third undefeated run through region play in the past four seasons.

            While its record doesn’t match Screven’s, only two of Thomasville’s six losses have come against teams in the AA classification.

            Of course, one of those setbacks was a 5-0 pasting at the hands of the Gamecocks during the Golden Isles tournament in late March.

            “(Thomasville) will be a different team this time around,” said Freeman. “They have a couple of very talented girls that didn’t play in our first meeting. It will also be a challenge to go on the road. We can’t travel much farther away without leaving the state.”

            In today’s match, Screven will send out the same lineup that has dominated postseason play to this point.

            Seniors Evan Sheppard, Missy Zeagler and Katheryn Wells will line up in the slots for Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles.

            The three have provided great leadership for the Gamecocks throughout the season and none of the trio has lost more than one game in any set so far in the state playoffs.

            “Evan and Missy will need to be big for us,” said Freeman. “They will have the two girls from Thomasville that didn’t play earlier. We have some good scouting reports on them though, and Katheryn is very confident in going up against the same girl that she faced the first time.”

            Participating in the doubles matches will be the pairs of Lauren Bazemore and Lauren Thomas, and the duo of Kelsey Forehand and Sydnee Weaver, who have been a team for three seasons and set the school record for career wins as a team earlier this season.

            “Our doubles teams are our younger girls, but they can be huge for us,” said Feeman. “They’ll start everything off and can get us going. Both of our doubles teams beat Thomasville at the Golden Isles, and if we can get the doubles wins, all pressure will be on Thomasville.”

            With a win, Screven will advance to the Final Four, which will be held Friday at Clayton County International Park.

            Today’s winner will take on the winner of the quarterfinal between Westminster and Lovett.


            Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.