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Americus-Sumter's boys tennis team's perfect season ends in Elite 8 loss to Howard

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

AMERICUS -- The dream of a perfect season came to an end Thursday.

That's when the Americus-Sumter boys lost the first three matches on the day and were eliminated by the Howard Huskies in the Elite 8, 3-2.

The Panthers finished the year 16-1.

"We knew it was going to be close -- either 3-2 for us or 2-3 for them," Panthers coach Carl Willis said. "Our kids played well up and down. Howard is very solid. It was just one of those days. Do I feel like we are one of the eight best teams in the state? Yes, I very much feel that way."

The bright spot of the day came at No. 1 singles and sophomore Joel Landis. With the overall match already in hand, Landis rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the first set to win 7-6 (8-6) and won the second set, 6-4, to finish 17-0 on the season.

Willis said this was by far Landis' toughest match of the season.

"It didn't surprise me with his attitude and work habits," he said. "Joel has not even reached anywhere near his potential. He will be phenomenal by the time he graduates. He will be unbelievable. His ceiling is set very high.

"For him to improve from our first doubles to our first singles, that's an incredible jump for him to be in 10th grade. I feel like he will be a co-captain next year. When you watch his match, there will always be several people observing."

David Cowan at No. 2 singles was the first off the courts, falling 6-1, 6-1. The No. 1 doubles team of Brandon Roberts and Josh Watford lost, 6-2, 6-4. They were down 5-1 in the second set before closing the deficit to 5-4. No. 3 singles player Bradley Pritchard also lost, 6-3, 6-0.

The No. 2 doubles team of Kentrell and Kendrick Mercer came out with the team's other win, 6-1, 6-4.

The Panthers graduate one player off the team -- Watford -- and the future expectations have already been set.

"We didn't like losing on our home court, but I never dreamed that we would run the table in the regular season," Willis said. "I felt we would make some noise in the playoffs, but I didn't know how far we'd go. The kids are already on fire and on a mission. We have a lot of guys in line, and their goal is to be undefeated again next year."