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Herald Tennis Player of Year Flournoy has surgery, will miss part of season for GSW

Bainbridge's Hilary Flournoy, The Herald's 2013 Player of the Year for girls tennis, was hoping to play right away at GSW as a freshman but a back injury will sideline for the first part of the season.

Bainbridge's Hilary Flournoy, The Herald's 2013 Player of the Year for girls tennis, was hoping to play right away at GSW as a freshman but a back injury will sideline for the first part of the season.

AMERICUS — Herald Player of the Year for girls tennis, Bainbridge’s Hilary Flournoy, will miss part of her freshman season at Georgia Southwestern State after recently undergoing back surgery.

GSW coach Brennon Sewell said this week that Flournoy — who finished 16-2 this past season at Bainbirdge, was unbeaten in region play and led her team to the GHSA Class AAAAA Sweet 16 — had surgery two weeks ago and started her rehab last week.

Flournoy could be out of competitive tennis until as late as January, but Sewell said he still expects her to compete for a Top 6 roster spot when she returns.

“Looking at her tournament results, she had a shot at our No. 4 position (before her surgery),” Sewell said. “She will play in the spring. How much she does will depend (on her recovery).”

Flournoy joins former Westwood star Sydnee Smith at GSW, where the four-time state champ and three-time Herald Player of the Year was redshirted last season and will compete for a roster spot this year.

“(Smith) should be competing somewhere between the No. 4 and No. 7 spots,” said Sewell, who seeds his players based on challenge matches before and at the beginning of the season. “(Smith) has gotten a lot better in the last year. She has learned how to hit the ball with pace. She is probably hitting at least 50 percent harder than last year, and she is hitting targets. And she has learned to serve (better).”

The Lady Hurricanes finished 8-17 this spring and 0-12 in the Peach Belt Conference, which was their worst season since 2010. Sewell, however, believes the 2013-14 team — which returns its top four players — will bounce back.

“On paper, the women’s team should be better than last year,” he said.

MASS EXODUS BY GSW MEN: On the men’s side, the Hurricanes are looking at a rebuilding year after the majority of last season’s team — including former Lee County star and Herald Player of the Year Matt Vansant and Leesburg native Joseph Bjerregaard — decided not to return.

“We were supposed to have all nine players back, and now we only have four,” said Sewell, whose men finished 3-14 overall and 0-9 in the conference last season. “And the frustrating thing was that it all happened in the last two weeks of school, every one of them. And by that time I had already told (recruits) that I didn’t need anybody else.”

Evgeniy Vinogradov (No. 1 singles) transferred to Georgia Tech; Bjerregaard (No. 3) is academically ineligible; Vansant (No. 4) is pursuing an accounting internship; and Tommy Cangelosi (No. 6) transferred to Georgia.

The avalanche of departures, however, did open the door for former Americus-Sumter star and two-time Herald Player of the Year Joel Landis to join the team.

“(Landis) has been working with me all summer and is going to be a big help this year,” Sewell said. “He is learning that he has to hit the ball harder than he did in high school. He has the potential to do that and has been working hard, mainly on his serve. He hasn’t mastered it yet but is catching on. And he has great foot speed.”