In the emotional moments just after Marvin Ridge was beaten 6-0 by Cardinal Gibbons in the 3A state tennis championships last May, George Lovitt and his teammates weren’t focused on their loss.
Instead, Lovitt said they already were talking about the future. The 2014 Mavericks’ team had no seniors in the starting lineup in either singles or doubles.
“We were definitely disappointed to lose (in the 3A final), but when we were standing there just after (the championship) match, we were talking about the possibilities of this season,” said Lovitt, now a junior and Marvin Ridge’s No. 1 player since he was a freshman. “We knew most of the matches (against Cardinal Gibbons) were tight, and we knew we would have the same team coming back. We knew they would be losing their No. 1. We were already starting to believe that this could be our year to win it all.”
While Lovitt’s main focus is on helping his team win a state championship, he also will be one of the favorites to challenge for a 3A state singles’ title after getting to the semifinals last year before losing to 20-13-14 state champion Robert Kelly of Cardinal Gibbons. Kelly also knocked Lovitt out of the state singles’ tournament as a freshman in the second round.
Lovitt, 17, won’t have to face Kelly, who now is playing at North Carolina.
Lovitt not only added about 2 inches and 10 pounds (now 6-foot, 150 pounds), but he also has focused on becoming more aggressive, including a first serve that can reach 115 mph.
Third-year Marvin Ridge coach Julie van Olden believes a major reason for his success is that Lovitt never beats himself.
“Even as a freshman, George was so steady, so disciplined. He’s just not going to make errors, Instead he’s going to force his opponent into mistakes,” van Olden said. “He’s very smart and strategic in every match, mixing up shots and moving his opponent around playing to his strengths and playing against their weaknesses.”
Big results keep coming for Lovitt, who plays year round on the U.S. Tennis Association junior circuit. He is the two-time Southern Carolinas 3A singles champion, defending 3A Midwest Regional champion, and he also had some big wins last summer in USTA events. His private coach is Tim Wilkison.
Lovitt, who is ranked No. 5 in the state, No. 46 in the Southeast and No. 138 in the nation according to tennisrecruiting.com, won five matches to win the consolation final at the New Balance High School Championships at Harvard.
Also returning for Marvin Ridge are sophomore John Hatala (No. 2 singles last year), juniors Avanish Madhavaram (No. 3 last year) and Hayden Wohlfarth (No. 4 last year), senior Andrew Viditz-Ward (No. 5 last year) and sophomores Michael Kronovet (No. 6) and Liam Florian (No. 3 doubles last year). Senior Woody Watson, a transfer from Ardrey Kell, also will battle for a spot in the lineup.
“We really want to play Cardinal Gibbons again in the state finals and beat them this time, because we want to beat the best of the best,” Lovitt said.
Observer-area boys’ tennis players to watch
George Lovitt, Marvin Ridge, Junior: 3A state singles semifinalist eager to challenge for a state individual and team titles, already a Division I recruit.
Kavir Kumar, Charlotte Country Day, Junior: Bucs’ all-state performer was 33-0 last season (17-0 singles, 16-0 doubles) but now takes on the No. 1 singles spot for a team hungry to get back to the final and win it (state runner-up last year).
Grant Stuckey, Charlotte Catholic, Sophomore: Played No. 1 singles for most of the season (with Riley Brosnan injured) and was 10-4 overall. He gives Catholic a major one-two punch at the top of the lineup.
Alex Brea, Providence Day, Senior: Appalachian State signee is one of top N.C. Independent Schools’ singles and doubles players (19-5 overall), and he and Alex Comisar lost only once in doubles last season.
Andrew Redding, Cannon School, Sophomore: Cougars’ all-state performer quickly becoming one of the top junior players in the state, Southeast and nation, will lead Cannon in the always-brutal CISAA conference.
Sean Wydra, Hough, Junior: Was half of the 4A state doubles championship team with his older brother Ryan.
Greg Dow, Lake Norman, Senior: Wildcats’ standout has been a constant winner as top player on one of the area’s best teams.
Will Ockerman, Covenant Day, Junior: Lions’ No. 1 also one of the top junior players in the state and a Division I recruit.
Austin Schepel, Cuthbertson, Sophomore: Cavaliers’ No. 1 impressed as a freshman as Southern Carolinas 3A runner-up and 3rd at 3A Midwest Regional, state qualifier.
John Hatala, Marvin Ridge, Sophomore: Mavericks’ No. 2 as a freshman has proven he is a talented singles and doubles player, capable of making a postseason run.