LON sports editor Justin Hubbard talks about the 2018-19 year in LOA athletics
I don’t think I’ve ever written a column about the same school three weeks in a row, but here we are.
This is my third-straight column pertaining to Lake Oconee Academy athletics. I normally wouldn’t do this because I don’t want it to seem like I’m giving preferential attention to one school over the others.
But, frankly, there just hasn’t been much going on at our other schools in recent weeks. Their sports were all wrapped up earlier and, with the school year ending, we’ve officially entered a dead period in sports.
And, franklier, LOA deserves it.
The first week, I wrote about its girls soccer team. The Lady Titans went to the Final Four where they ultimately lost, but I couldn’t help but write about how great of a season they had.
Last week, there was an even more gut-wrenching thing to discuss – the boys soccer team’s state championship loss – but I had to commend the Titans on turning the corner this season.
This week, I’ve got good news, for once!
LOA’s girls golf team sent Katie and Kelli Scheck, two sisters, to the Class A state championship tournament last week. They dominated.
The Schecks beat second-place Gordon Lee by 19 strokes. I don’t know much of anything about golf but I do know a 19-stroke victory sounds like a good old-fashioned whipping.
In addition to the team championship, Katie placed first individually. So, for those keeping score at home, that marks two-straight team and individual titles for the elder Scheck. Not a bad resume for a sophomore.
As I interviewed the Schecks and LOA golf coach Josh Martz last week, I noticed a couple of things.
First, those two girls really leaned on each other during the competition. That didn’t stop their competitive drive, though. Martz made sure to tell me that Kelli placed the highest individually at the area tournament but Katie was determined to outdo her at the state meet.
As an older brother myself, I can appreciate a good sibling rivalry.
But I also took note of just how much LOA accomplished this past school year across the board.
LOA’s boys basketball team got a lot better. I know its record still looks bad but, for those of us who watched the team play this year, we saw noticeable growth. Give head coach Michael Brooker some more time and he’ll have that program at a legitimately competitive level before you know it.
The softball team cracked its way into an oddly organized region consolation tournament. I’m still not 100 percent sure how/why the consolation round was formulated but, regardless, the Lady Titans got there. It was their first taste of postseason action but, unfortunately, their season ended there. I’ve got a hunch they’ll be in the actual region tournament later this fall, though.
LOA’s baseball team made a big jump this year, too. It even qualified for the region tournament for the first time. Given the fact the Titans are only losing one senior, Blake Mills, I think it’s safe to say this program hasn’t stopped growing.
The girls basketball team turned in a really strong year, resulting in the Lady Titans’ first playoff appearance. If not for the convoluted rules of the Class A power rating system, they might have hosted the first round. Instead, they traveled to Turner County and took a tough loss. They only lost one senior to graduation (Te’Amber Gilbert), so I believe they’re in for another great season this coming winter.
Things got started early for LOA athletics as the school’s volleyball team reached the state tournament for the first time. The Lady Titans recorded the school’s first-ever team playoff victory. They fell in the second round, but that team will forever hold a place in LOA history.
Then, of course, we get to the aforementioned soccer teams (both won region titles) and golf teams. In addition to the Schecks’ state titles, Ryan Smith and Rylan Black both finished in the top 10 of the state golf tournament, so LOA golf had another strong all-around performance in the last competition of the year.
What’s my point in saying all of this? Well, I believe these teams, among the other sports offered at LOA, are on the rise.
I’ve been saying since last school year that LOA could become an athletic powerhouse in our area one day. I think that day is quickly approaching.
LOA has already reached that level in its golf and soccer programs. The others are not far behind.
The proof is in the pudding, and LOA’s pudding is pretty sweet right now.