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Gainesville boys' tennis team focused on region title
Gainesville senior Corey McDonald returns a shot in a recent match. McDonald makes up part of Gainesville's No. 2 singles team which is undefeated in region play for the season.
The Gainesville boys tennis team had a meeting prior to the start of this season and one topic dominated: winning a region championship.

In each of the past two years, since winning back-to-back region titles in 2005 and 2006, Gainesville has gone through the regular season with only two region losses, only to lose in the region championship match.

“When we started this season, the first speech given was about winning region,” second-year Gainesville coach James Lingenfelter said. “We will do whatever it takes this year to make that happen.”

The season-long focus of the Red Elephants (9-2, 7-0 Region 7-AAA) hasn’t shifted nor has it turned to complacency despite
being undefeated in regular season region play thus far and being ranked sixth in Class AAA.

The sole focus was then, and will remain, bringing a region title back to Gainesville.

“Every match we try our hardest to put the word out that we’re going for region,” senior doubles player Robbie Bilbrough said.
“We want to put fear in everybody, I mean, we’re undefeated and we’re going to win.”

Bilbrough partners with fellow senior Drew Denning to make up Gainesville’s No. 1 doubles team. Each are three-year letterman for the Red Elephants; as a pair they are undefeated in region doubles play this season.

“My brother (William Denning) played a few years ago and back then Gainesville dominated,” Drew Denning said. “We won region my freshman year and want to bring it back as seniors.”

Lingenfelter is quick to point to the dedication of his team as a driving force behind this year’s successes. The catalysts behind that dedication are Gainesville’s five seniors: Bilbrough, Denning, Louis Hokayem, Corey McDonald and Whit Carmon.

“The repoire these guys have on the court at practice and in game matches is the key to the success of the entire program,” Lingenfelter said. “They work every day to prepare the program’s future.

“They are great kids and I really enjoy working with them.”

Hokayem and McDonald make up Gainesville’s No. 2 doubles team. The duo has played together for three years and are also undefeated in region play this season.

Carmon, junior Doug McDuff and sophomore Ryan Joiner play singles for Gainesville. Joiner is undefeated in region play as the No. 1 singles player on this year’s team, following in the footsteps of the senior doubles’ players.

“We really try to instill an environment of comraderie and competition,” Lingenfelter said. “At the end of each practice we talk about our goals for that week and the importance of building each other up for each match.”

According to Bilbrough, Denning and Hokayem, the year’s emphasis on team goals, rather than individual play, is a stark contrast to years’ past; but a welcome one.

“Everybody on this team genuinely cares for each other,” Hokayem said. “We are working harder as a team to accomplish a goal.”

“This year we don’t care which individual wins,” Bilbrough said, “as long as the team gets the ‘W.’”
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