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Lady Titans last team standing

Symone Townsend has played tennis long enough now that the only scouting she needs on an opponent is during warm-ups. The Drew senior sizes them up, making sure to note the player’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, and sits them down, more times than not.

“Either you’re better, you’re equally matched or this player’s better than you,” Townsend said. “Either way, you’re going to have to give 100 percent on the court.”

The formula has worked this season for Townsend and the Lady Titans girl’s tennis team. They stand alone as the only Southern Crescent team remaining in the state tournament.

No. 9-ranked Drew (14-3) will play at No. 6 West Laurens (18-4) in the Class AAA quarterfinals Monday at 4 p.m., looking to advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive season.

“We know this is what we prepared all season for,” Drew coach Dorwyn Lyles said. “They’re very motivated. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get back [to the semifinals].”

The Lady Titans have a familiar foe waiting for them. The winner of Monday’s match will face St. Pius, who defeated Drew, 3-1, in the semifinals last season.

But Drew is undaunted by any opponent this year. The Lady Titans have spent much of the season ranked in the top 10. Their three losses have come against two teams — Woodland and Eagle’s Landing twice.

And they’ve won their first two state tournament matches in far more convincing fashion than last season, when the Lady Titans won three straight 3-2 matches to make the semifinals.

This season, Drew defeated Westside-Augusta in the first round 3-0, then beat Crisp County 3-1 — and did it on the road as a No. 3 seed.

“We’re not scared to play anybody,” Townsend said. “We’re ready to meet the competition, whoever they might be.”

The Lady Titans have certainly competed far sooner than most third-year programs. It’s helped having Townsend, the team’s No. 1 singles player, and fellow seniors Alexis Dean at No. 2 singles and Khadijah Battle at No. 1 doubles with Brianna Hardy.

There’s also talent for the future in Idara Ette, a freshman and the team’s No. 3 singles player.

“We were fortunate to inherit those three girls,” Lyles said.

Townsend said teammates have “developed a family bond” since they started the program and unflappable expectations.

“We expect ourselves to get in the Final Four,” Townsend said, “but actually bring home a state championship trophy. We’re getting ourselves ready.”