NAHS in shape to take region's top honors

Region 5-AAAA, in terms of tennis, provides one of the state's toughest neighborhoods, but North Augusta High School is in prime shape to take one of the region's top honors this year, with sophomore Liam Wiggins among the top competitors.

Wiggins, a sophomore, is the Yellow Jackets' No. 1 player this season, and entered this week having beaten some of his closest rivals in the region. His practice routine includes occasional workouts with players from USC Aiken and Georgia Regents University.

Wiggins' teammates, in order of ranking, include senior Hampton Williams, eighth-grader Blake Elam, senior Matthew Berry, senior Glenn Barnes, junior John Michael Baldy, senior Cameron Wilkes, sophomore Luke Smith, sophomore Alex Gambill, senior Joey Baldwin, senior Ricky Baldwin, eighth-grader Tanner Scaggs, junior Nathan Thornton, junior Brooks Williford and eighth-grader Sam Wilkes.

Stephanie Ramey has returned as the Jackets' head coach, and her squad began this week with a 4-2 record.

Chris Tully, an assistant coach with the Jackets, noted that Wiggins is currently ranked 47th among all players 18 and younger in the South - a region that includes, in this classification, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.

"Liam's developed into all the shots," Tully said. "He's got a tremendous baseline game. A great feel of the net. He's mastered several different serves. Very good footwork. Very good balance."

Tully, addressing Wiggins' closest competitor on the team, described Williams as having improved his baseline game significantly. "He's staying in rallies a lot longer. Where he used to be a two-or three-shot rally guy, he's up to six or seven shots, which has really helped him in the matches. He's got a big serve. He's a powerful player."

South Aiken appears to be the region's toughest team, in Tully's assessment. "Unfortunately, with our region's realignment, South Aiken, Lexington, Dutch Fork and Aiken all ... will be in the top 10 this year, and they're all in our region.

"It is feasible, he added, to place those four teams among the state's top seven. "They're that good. South Aiken has beaten Dutch Fork and Lexington already this season."Wiggins, he noted, has beaten the top players at South Aiken and Lexington so far this season. "He should be the top player in the region ... I find it hard to believe he wouldn't be," Tully said.

The Jackets' next contest is to be today at Dutch Fork. The next home game is to be Tuesday versus Lexington. Wiggins has a leg up on Lexington's No. 1 player, Logan Adkins, having beaten him convincingly earlier this season, Tully noted.