From left, Westwood’s Sydnee Smith, a senior, is The Herald’s Player of the Year for girls tennis for the third straight season, while winning Player of the Year honors for the first time are Sherwood boys soccer star T.J. Clay, a junior, Deerfield standout Casey Kincheloe, a junior, and Seminole County golfer Tyler Shamblin, also a junior. (email@example.com)
Seminole County junior Tyler Shamblin’s pure golf swing has made him the best high school golfer in Southwest Georgia and the Herald’s Player of the Year.
DONALSONVILLE --- Seminole County golf coach Brinson Register remembers the first time he saw Tyler Shamblin swing a golf club.
“It was a pure, Ben Hogan swing,” Register said, recalling the moment several years ago when Shamblin was still in middle school. “Some players you just look at them and they just have the swing.”
Shamblin’s was unmistakable.
It’s been four years since Register first caught a glimpse of his future star golfer, and Shamblin, who is The Herald’s 2012 Player of the Year for golf, has only improved since that day.
“Back then I looked like Tiger (Woods) or Rory (McIlroy) on the driving range, but then on the course I was just your average 85 player,” said Shamblin, who is still just a junior. “It was course management, shot selection and not knowing how to get around the golf course.”
Now Shamblin has emerged as the top golfer in Southwest Georgia.
He is the two-time Region 1-A medalist with scores of 70 and 71 the last two years — and would be 3-for-3 if not for losing in a tiebreaker his freshman year — and he led Seminole to a 14th-place finish in the state meet with a team-low 77. He also recently won the club championship at Crooked Oak Golf Course in Colquitt and holds the course record of 62 at Donalsonville Country Club.
“He is by far the best golfer that has come through since I have been coach,” said Register, who took over the varsity program in 2000. “By far Tyler has the best potential that I have ever had the opportunity to work with, and it’s because he isn’t a seasonal golfer. He plays 365 days a year. A lot of golfers put the golf clubs up at the end of the golf season and won’t pick them back up until I make them. Tyler plays year-round, and he is dedicated.”
Shamblin’s dedication is exemplified in practice when he shows up on time for role call before heading over to the driving range, where he stays for three or four hours a night perfecting his swing — and he never gets tired of the extra work.
“I just hook up my headphones and iPod and put it all behind me,” he said.
He might put the exhaustion of long hours on the range behind him, but his drives — which stretched as far as 360 yards last month during a long-drive contest at Crooked Oak — never stop going.
And neither do his dreams.
“My dream would be to play for the University of Georgia,” Shamblin said. “My family and I go to Athens three or four times a year to football games, and we love it up there. It’s those kind of trips that make me want to go there even more and go practice all those hours.”
Register wouldn’t rule out anything — or any destination — for his junior golfer, who he said, “looked like he read Ben Hogan’s book about the five fundamentals of golf before he picked up a club.
“Tyler has a rhythm in his swing. I think he could hit it off concrete,” Register added. “He’s just got it.”
2012 HERALD ALL-AREA GOLF TEAM:
Rhodes Collier, Sr., Early County
WHY HE’S HERE: Runner-up for Player of the Year honors after shooting a 77 in the Region 1-AA tournament and 76 in the state tournament.
Tyler Hanson, 8th-grade, Sherwood
WHY HE’S HERE: Shot 82 in the GISA Region 3-AAA tournament and 76 in the state tournament, which was good enough for a sixth-place finish; also finished as the low medalist in five head-to-head matches
Jerrell Hubbard, Sr., Westover
WHY HE’S HERE: Shot 80 in the Region 1-AAA tournament and 80 in the state tournament after becoming the first Patriots region champ in nearly two decades.
Hudson Hannah, Sr., Seminole County
WHY HE’S HERE: Shot 73 in the Region 1-A tournament and 82 in the state tournament.
John Leach, Jr., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY HE’S HERE: No. 1 player for the Knights who hot 81 in the GISA Region 3-AAA tournament and 74 in the state tournament to finish third overall.
Tyler George, Fr., Sherwood
WHY HE’S HERE: Shot 79 in the GISA Region 3-AAA tournament and 79 in the state tournament.
Chris Rogers, Sr., Terrell Academy
WHY HE’S HERE: Top player for the Eagles this past season who hot 77 in the GISA Class A state tournament and will continue his golfing career at ABAC next season.
Clay Wilson, Sr., Worth County
WHY HE’S HERE: The Rams’ No. 1 player who shot 80 in the Region 1-AAA tournament to lead Worth to the region title; also shot 84 in the state tournament.
Wilson Joiner, Fr., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY HE’S HERE: Shot 76 and tied for ninth in the GISA Class AAA state tournament.
Sydnee Smith leaves Westwood as a four-time state champion and was an easy choice to win her third straight Herald Player of the Year award for girls tennis.
CAMILLA --- Dozens of trophies and medals line shelves and dressers in Sydnee Smith’s room, which has turned into a makeshift Hall of Fame for Westwood’s star tennis player.
The awards just begin to tell the story of Smith’s illustrious tennis career that has been highlighted by four individual state championships and countless straight-sets, 6-0, 6-0, victories.
Opponents step on the court with Smith and would usually step back off without winning a game against the best girls tennis player in this part of the state.
Smith, who is The Herald Player of the Year for girls tennis for the third consecutive seasons, recently reflected on all she accomplished at Westwood.
And while she could have talked for hours about her individual accomplishments and explained how much time she put on the tennis court to bring home those countless trophies, instead her thoughts went to her teammates.
“I enjoyed playing high school tennis, and I enjoyed everyone who was around me when I played,” said Smith, who lost just one match her entire Westwood career, which began in the eighth grade. “It wouldn’t have been possible without my parents and (head) coach Carole (Powell) helping me along the way.”
Smith put another exclamation point on her storied career this season by winning her fourth straight GISA Class A state singles title and leading the Lady Wildcats to their second state team title in a row — and this time she got to share it all with her sister, 8th-grader Callie Smith.
“Winning team state was really fun this year, but it was really cool because I got to do it with my sister,” Sydnee Smith said. “Not many people get to win a state championship. Winning one together (makes it even more special because it’s) not an easy thing to do.”
Smith made winning state championships look like a piece of cake.
Not only did she win four individual titles in a row, but she made it to the state semifinals as an eighth-grader. She was 87-1 on the court in matches she finished, with her only loss coming last year to Deerfield-Windsor’s Joyner Tyson when Smith was forced to retire mid-match because of an injured knee.
Smith, who is headed to Georgia Southwestern on a full scholarship, finished her senior year without losing a single game.
“We were at our team state championship in Augusta, and one of the boys was giving Sydnee a hard time because nobody had won a game off of her,” Powell said. “He said, ‘You ought to let a few of those players win games.’ I looked at him and said, ‘We don’t play that way. We play to win every single game.’ ”
So that’s what Sydnee did — but she didn’t get there without hours and hours of practice.
“She lives in a little community, and there is a church out there that has a tennis court,” Powell said. “She has her own ball machine and works with her dad. She puts in several hours a day after school and basketball.
“She is able to focus and decide what her goals are and go after them. Way back in 8th grade, she had decided that she was going to win a state title, and she just went after it. She is just special. The other girls on the team look up to her and want to be like her. If you asked any of them who they looked up to, it would be Sydnee.”
She is taking that no-quit attitude to GSW, where the Lady Hurricane tennis program is in desperate need of rejuvenation.
GSW is coached by Brennan Sewell, who is already working with Smith this summer.
“She’s going to be an impact player for us, especially now that she is concentrating on only tennis,’’ Sewell said last month when Smith signed with GSW. “I’ve had other players come in who were in other sports (in high school) and they really improved. They have been dividing their time, and tennis doesn’t take up that much of their time. There is a lot of improvement. Two or three years down the road, Sydnee will be tremendously better.’’
And in those two or three years, she will likely add a few more trophies to her collection.
“I think I am lucky to get (The Herald Player of the Year award) three times,” Smith said when listing all of her trophies. “Because there are a lot of great tennis players in this area.”
But there is only one Sydnee Smith.
2012 HERALD ALL-AREA GIRLS TENNIS TEAM:
Hope Kitchen (Sr.)/ Lucy Kelley (Sr.), Deerfield-Windsor
WHY THEY’RE HERE: Runners-up for Player of the Year after leading the Lady Knights to a GISA Class AAA team state championship and winning a state title as a doubles team; both were long-time members of the varsity squad (Kelly for five years and Kitchen for three years) and won back-to-back GISA Region 3-AAA titles as doubles partners.
Joyner Tyson, Fr., Deerfield
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 1 singles for the state champion Lady Knights, was the GISA Region 3-AAA singles champion and was unbeaten before losing in the Final Four at state; finished with an overall record of 15-1.
Callie Smith (8th-grader)/Mary Parker (So.), Westwood
WHY THEY’RE HERE: The duo didn’t play much together in the regular season but breezed through their competition in the GISA Class A state tournament before finally losing to the eventual state champions; they were instrumental in the Lady Wildcats’ team success and won Westwood’s first match in its team state title against Oak Mountain Academy.
Savannah Jones, Jr., Westwood
WHY SHE’S HERE: Anywhere else Jones would have played at No. 1 singles, but at Westwood she played behind Herald Player of the Year Sydnee Smith and was runner-up to her in both the GISA Class A state championship match and the Region 3-A title match.
Abbey Anglin, Jr., Baconton Charter
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 1 singles for the third straight year, finished with a 12-3 record and led the Lady Blazers to their second GHSA Region 1-A title in school history.
Jaycee Santos (Jr.)/Hannah Hays (Fr.), Baconton Charter
WHY THEY’RE HERE: Played No. 1 doubles, were both named to the All-Region team and finished with an overall record of 13-2.
Sierra Davis, Jr., Baconton Charter
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 2 singles, was the Lady Blazers’ lone winner in their GHSA Class A Sweet 16 match against Savannah Christian and finished with an overall record of 13-2.
Hilary Flournoy, Jr., Bainbridge
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 1 singles for the Lady Bearcats, who advanced to the Elite 8; she finished with a team-best record of 14-2, including 4-1 in region play.
Savannah Boysen, Jr., Westover
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 1 singles for the Lady Patriots and finished with a 10-2 overall record.
Meera Kuntawala, Sr., Westover
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 3 singles for the Lady Patriots, finished with an undefeated 13-0 record and was the only Westover tennis player to win a playoff match.
Lauren Resnick, Jr., Americus-Sumter
WHY SHE’S HERE: Was the No. 1 singles player for the Region 1-AAA runner-up Lady Panthers; finished with a 9-4 overall record in her first season as the top singles player.
Julia Davis, Fr., Crisp County
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played No. 1 singles for Crisp County, which finished 18-1, was Region 1-AAA champs and made it to the Sweet 16 of state.
Sherwood’s T.J. Clay, who shattered the school record for goals in a season with 33, helped put SCA on the map and is The Herald’s Player of the Year for boys soccer.
ALBANY --- There was pain and frustration; setbacks and disappointments.
And then there was T.J. Clay, never giving up, never losing hope.
Prior to this season, the Sherwood boys soccer team had won only four games and had beaten just two schools in the two-year history of its program, and Clay was there for all of the heartbreak and all of the agony.
“It was frustrating,” Clay said. “I knew we were going to get better sooner or later, so I just waited.”
Sherwood’s emergence came sooner, rather than later, and Clay was right there to lead the way — just one of the reasons he’s The Herald’s 2012 Player of the Year.
Clay, a junior, led the Eagles to a 13-4-1 record, shattered the school record for goals in a season (33), led all GISA classes in scoring and was named to the GISA Class AAA All-State team for the second year in a row.
And none of that came as a surprise to first-year Sherwood coach Jeremy Davidson.
“He is definitely the one leading the way,” Davidson said. “He is the face of Sherwood soccer, so the kids are looking to him and saying, ‘We could be the next T.J.’ I’m not going to lie, I am doing a camp for young kids (later this month), and he is the one I am using to advertise it. Everybody knows who T.J. is.”
Sherwood finished second in the region behind Deerfield-Windsor and was undefeated at 11-0-1 until Deerfield handed the Eagles their first loss on March 22. It was the first of two times Deerfield bested Sherwood this season and accounted for two its four total losses.
While Deerfield had a team full of talented players, Clay stood alone at Sherwood and was double- and triple-teamed all season, which is what makes his 33 goals even more impressive.
“As far as athletic ability goes, T.J. carried the team,” Davidson said. “T.J. isn’t surrounded by a whole lot of other players (with soccer experience), so he has to do a lot of it himself.”
Clay, who plays club soccer for South Georgia United out of Valdosta, is doing his best to change the climate on the Sherwood soccer fields, teaching his teammates the game and leading by example.
“And we are getting better. We are a new team,” said Clay, who also had 10 assists this season.
Clay then paused when asked how going from a winless season to 13-4-1 felt, and he reflected on the journey.
“Pretty far. We’ve come pretty far,” he said. “From a losing season to a winning season is pretty good. And we should only be able to get better than we were last year. We should be able to win region next year.”
Clay didn’t have to think long when answering his next question.
“Commitment,” he said, when asked what it took to get where the team is now. “Commitment and hard work.”
2012 HERALD ALL-AREA BOYS SOCCER TEAM:
Jonathan Jones, Sr., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY HE’S HERE: Runner-up for Player of the Year after leading the Knights to a GISA Region 3-AAA title and the program’s first Final Four appearance in the state tournament in the past eight years; All-State for the third straight year and scored 25 goals, including the winning goal in the state quarterfinals against Trinity Christian.
Emilio Hernandez, Fr., Bainbridge
WHY HE’S HERE: The primary scoring threat on a Bainbridge team that advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in school history; scored a team-high 22 goals and added seven assists.
Luis Mejia, So., Bainbridge
WHY HE’S HERE: Bainbridge’s center midfielder who distributed the ball well and added 13 goals and 16 assists.
Villeser Sarmiento, Sr., Bainbridge
WHY HE’S HERE: Defensive anchor on a Bainbridge team that may have been the most talented team in the area.
Andrew Sullivan, So., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY HE’S HERE: The Knights’ center midfielder who was named the GISA Region 3-AAA Player of the Year and finished with eight goals and 15 assists.
Aaron Anthony, Sr., Sherwood
WHY HE’S HERE: Team MVP for the Eagles, scored 25 goals, handed out 12 assists and was named to the All-Region team.
William Orr, Jr., Sherwood
WHY HE’S HERE: The Eagles’ center midfielder set a school record for assists in a season with 22 and also scored 12 goals.
Edin Ancelmo, So., Americus-Sumter
WHY HE’S HERE: Was named the Region 1-AAA Offensive Player of the Year for the Panthers, who finished with a 12-5 record and won the school’s first region title; scored 26 goals and added four assists.
Bryan Lepiz, So., Americus-Sumter
WHY HE’S HERE: Was named co-Midfielder of the Year in the region; scored 11 goals and added three assists.
Anosike Akandu, Jr., Americus-Sumter
WHY HE’S HERE: Best defensive player on the best team in Region 1-AAA; named the region Defensive Player of the Year.
Dylan Mayer, Jr., Worth County
WHY HE’S HERE: Center midfielder for the Rams, who finished 11-3 and made it to the state playoffs for the first time in school history; led the team in scoring with 14 goals and also had a team-high 12 assists.
Hunter Johnson, Jr., Lee County
WHY HE’S HERE: The leading scorer for a Lee County team that finished 5-8-1 overall and fifth in the region; scored 10 goals and dished out one assist.
Calvin Cotton, Sr., Crisp County
WHY HE’S HERE: Played forward and led Crisp County in scoring with 13 goals; named to First Team All-Region.
Deerfield junior Casey Kincheloe set a school record and led the state with a staggering 44 goals, earning her The Herald’s Player of the Year honor for girls soccer.
ALBANY --- In the middle of the chaos of one of the most intense games of the season, Deerfield-Windsor soccer coach Aly Joslin pulled Casey Kincheloe to the side.
“I said, ‘Listen Casey, you can be the best player on this field if you go out and do what you can do,’ ” Joslin said, recalling a regular-season game against Stratford. “Sure enough, in the second half she came out and blew them away.”
Kincheloe scored her team’s only goal in the 1-1 tie, which was Deerfield’s best finish against Stratford in years, and Joslin said that moment was a turning point in Kincheloe’s career, which is evolving into one of the best in the history of the DWS program.
Kincheloe, a junior who is The Herald’s 2012 Player of the Year for girls soccer, led the state with 44 goals this season, which also broke the school record.
She was the GISA Region 3-AAA Player of the Year, named to the All-State team and is closing in on the DWS record of 118 goals for her career.
“And the scary thing is that I don’t think she has reached her potential yet,” Joslin said. “She will be good. She has everything. She knows how to score goals. She can use her right foot and left foot. She can take players one-on-one. She has pace and quickness. She has short range and long range and has a very good eye for the game.”
And Joslin said it was that moment during halftime of the game against Stratford when Kincheloe really started to blossom.
Kincheloe agreed that her goal against the reigning state champions was easily the best moment of her season.
“It was great,” Kincheloe said. “All of the Deerfield fans went wild, and we all went crazy because it was exciting to tie the state champs.”
The Lady Knights finished with a 15-2-1 record and lost in the state quarterfinals to eventual champion Westminster, and much of Deerfield’s success was due to Kincheloe, who has already been named one of the team’s captains next season and is less than 40 goals away from breaking the school’s record.
“I’m hoping to make it to state next year,” said Kincheloe, who scored 22 goals her sophomore season before doubling that total this season.
When asked if she could double her total again and make it 88 her senior season, she laughed: “I don’t think I can score that many, but hopefully I can get around the same number, or higher, than I did this season.”
Joslin said the sky is the limit for the forward.
“I’ve coached here three years, and she is certainly one of the best,” he said. “She has the talent to go a very long way.”
That talent runs in the family, and it was a sibling rivalry with little sister Haley Kincheloe, who is just a freshman but still scored 24 goals, that pushed Casey this season.
“Her and I worked together really well, and as her sister I didn’t want her to beat me out,” Casey said.
Then Casey paused before adding: “And in the future, she will probably beat my records.”
But at least for now, everyone is looking up to Casey.
2012 HERALD ALL-AREA GIRLS SOCCER TEAM:
Katie Brown, Jr., Westover
WHY SHE’S HERE: Runner-up for Player of the Year; called the best offensive and defensive player on her team by Westover coach Terri Satterfield and was named the team’s MVP and the Region 1-AAA Midfielder of the Year; scored 22 goals and had 17 assists.
Nellie Young, Fr., Westover
WHY SHE’S HERE: Led the Lady Patriots in scoring with 32 goals and five assists; played forward and was named First Team All-Region and was given the team’s co-Offensive Player of the Year award.
Savannah Cook, Sr., Bainbridge
WHY SHE’S HERE: Led the Lady Bearcats in scoring with 17 goals and four assists, despite playing with an ankle injury for most of the season.
Charlton Reynolds, Sr., Bainbridge
WHY SHE’S HERE: Captain for the Lady Bearcats; scored 12 goals and added eight assists.
Paige Barker, Sr., Sherwood
WHY SHE’S HERE: Sherwood’s lone senior finished the season with 25 goals and 12 assists and led the Lady Eagles to their best season in school history (17-6 and region runner-up).
Jordan Paramore, Fr., Sherwood
WHY SHE’S HERE: Scored 22 goals and added 12 assists as center midfielder.
Katie Williams, Sr., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY SHE’S HERE: Top goalkeeper in Southwest Georgia the past four years, was named to the GISA Class AAA All-State team for the second straight year and was a two-year captain at Deerfield; had a school record 63 saves this season and will continue her soccer career at Birmingham-Southern College.
Candace Cosby, Sr., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY SHE’S HERE: Named to the GISA Class AAA All-State team for the second year in a row and led the state with 24 assists; also scored 15 goals and will play next season at Armstrong Atlantic State University.
Mackenzie Davis, Sr., Deerfield
WHY SHE’S HERE: Second-leading scorer in the state; named to the GISA Class AAA All-State team after scoring 30 goals.
Haley Kincheloe, Fr., Deerfield-Windsor
WHY SHE’S HERE: Little sister of Herald Player of the Year Casey Kincheloe; scored 24 goals for the Lady Knights and was named to the All-Region team.
Maura Milliron, Jr., Terrell Academy
WHY SHE’S HERE: Led the Lady Eagles with 22 goals and four assists as a left forward.
Anna Olson, So., Crisp County
WHY SHE’S HERE: Played every position but goalkeeper for Crisp County, which finished fourth in the region and lost to Veterans in the first round of the state tournament; named to First Team All-Region; led the team in scoring.
Carsen Taylor, Jr., Lee County
WHY SHE’S HERE: The Region 1-AAAA Player of the Year, tallied 14 goals and 11 assists for the region champion Lady Trojans.
Nicole Polk, Jr., Lee County
WHY SHE’S HERE: A 1-AAAA First-Team selection, scored 10 goals and had four assists.
Emily Peters, Jr., and Sarah Sheffield, Jr., Lee County
WHY THEY'RE HERE: 1-AAAA First-Team selections; led the Lady Trojans’ lights-out defense. Peters also scored two goals, and Sheffield tallied one goal and three assists in limited offensive action.
Danielle Brendel, Jr., Lee County
WHY SHE’S HERE: 1-AAAA First-Teamer, saved 147 shots and was the only goalie selected on the all-region team.
Kristi Sheridan, Sr., Lee County
WHY SHE’S HERE: A Second-Team region selection who is headed to GSW, scored nine goals and notched eight assists.