Young Marvin Ridge tennis team is eager to prove its merit
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Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014

Young Marvin Ridge tennis team is eager to prove its merit

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- COURTESY OF CLAUDINE LOVITT
Sophomore George Lovitt is the No. 1 player on a Marvin Ridge boys’ tennis team that hopes to compete for team and individual championships this season.

George Lovitt was on the tennis court March 8 working on his game like he did most weekends.

He was running down a ball, like he had done thousands of times before, when he reached for a volley and fell awkwardly to the ground, attempting to catch himself with his left hand.

As pain shot through his body, Lovitt, 16, immediately feared the worst-case scenario of not being able to play tennis. He later found out he had broken his wrist.

One of Lovitt’s first worries was that he might have to miss time with his Marvin Ridge High tennis team, which was less than a week into its season.

“Tennis is a very individual sport most of the time, so I really enjoy playing for the Marvin Ridge team and with all my teammates,” said Lovitt, who was the Southern Carolina Conference singles champion, all-region and all-state after going 18-3 as a freshman. “When I broke my wrist, I was worried that it might hurt the team in some way if I had to miss some time. I was really excited about the season. I knew we had a chance to contend for a conference and maybe even state championship, and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that effort.”

As it turned out, Lovitt, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, wouldn’t have to miss any time.

As the reigning 3A Midwest Regional singles’ runner-up and state qualifier, Lovitt was available to play in the No. 1 singles’ line three days later against Charlotte Country Day, keeping the Mavericks lineup intact. He played with cast on his left wrist, which forced him to use a one-handed backhand instead of his usual two-handed shot and to adjust his serve.

“George takes his role on this team very seriously and wants all that comes with the responsibility of being on that No. 1 line,” said Marvin Ridge tennis coach Julie van Olden. “The fact that he got hurt on Saturday (March 8) and then was back at practice on Monday doesn’t surprise me. He’s not only a tough guy, but a very self-composed and mature player. He doesn’t focus on himself; it’s never all about him.”

Lovitt, who has been ranked as high as No. 20 in the Southeast region by U.S. Tennis Association, only has two singles losses this season to Charlotte Country Day’s Will Turner and Ardrey Kell’s Josh Du Toit.

Like Lovitt, most of his Mavericks teammates were eager to prove themselves this season. Despite being young, the Marvin Ridge lineup has a lot of experience in the junior tennis ranks, making the team strong from top to bottom.

Freshman John Hatala plays the No. 2 line in the Mavericks’ lineup this season and has only lost only two singles’ matches going into the postseason.

Hatala is a familiar name in the program. His brother, Joey, was a 2012 Marvin Ridge graduate who won the 3A state singles’ and doubles’ titles; his other brother, Bobby, was a 2013 Marvin Ridge graduate who was a team captain for the Mavericks last year. His sister, Hanna, is a Marvin Ridge junior who is a key player for the girls’ team.

“My family has been a part of Marvin Ridge tennis for a long time, so I kind of feel like I have, too,” John Hatala said. “I was at the matches anyway; now I’m playing in them. It feels great to finally be a part of it for real.”

Sophomore Avanish Madhavaram, who played No. 2 last year and qualified for the state singles’ tournament, has also played big, losing only two singles’ matches all season.

Two more freshmen in Michael Kronovet (unbeaten at No. 6 singles) and Liam Florian (No. 3 doubles) have also played key roles.

Junior co-captains Hayden Wohlfarth and Andrew Viditz-Ward (unbeaten at No. 5 singles) have also been big leaders for the team.

Coach van Olden said her No. 7 through 16 could start for many teams.

“I think all of the guys on the team really benefit from getting to compete with each other,” Kronovet said. “Not only is everyone on this team really supportive and eager to help you, but I think the talent level really forces you to step up your own game. I’ve played way better this year. When I was younger, I really couldn’t compete with a lot of these guys.”

The Mavericks (14-2, 8-0 in the SCC to repeat as conference champions) are ready to compete against the state’s best, said van Olden.

Six Marvin Ridge players qualified for the 3A individual West Regional tournament this season, including Lovitt, the SCC singles champion; Hatala, who finished third in the conference singles tournament; and SCC doubles champions Madhavaram and Wohlfarth.

“The youth of our team is offset by their experience on the court,” said van Olden, who is 28-5 in her two season as head coach. “While a lot of these are young in age, they are rich in experience. They’ve all played in a lot of pressure situations. I think that will show in the postseason even more.”

After getting to the third round of the playoffs last year before falling to Charlotte Catholic, who is now in class 4A, the Mavericks believes the team can make an even deeper run this May.

Their run will start in the first round of the 3A dual-team playoffs, which start April 29, followed by individual regionals at Les Myers Park in Concord May 2-3.

While he is helping his team compete for championships, Lovitt’s goal is also to contend for 3A state singles’ title after getting to the second round of the individual state tournament last season.

He knows it’s going to be a tough road, with players like defending 3A state champion Robert Kelly, a North Carolina signee from Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons, in his path.

“Our goal as a team and my goal as an individual is to make it to the state finals and win it,” said Lovitt, a four-star recruit according to tennisrecruiting.net. “We know it’s not going to be easy, but I feel like we are both capable of winning it all.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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