North tennis teams hoping to step up to next level

In a way, the boys and girls tennis teams at North Gwinnett High School share a common goal for the 2012 season.

Both want to shatter a glass ceiling and step up to the next level.

For the boys, who have qualified for the Class AAAAA state playoffs two straight seasons, that glass ceiling is simply getting past the first round.

And coach Paula Radloff has every reason to believe the Bulldogs can break through and reach that new level of the round of 16, and perhaps even beyond, with nearly everyone back from last season.

Leading the charge is Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six selection Taylor Buchholz (12-6 a year ago) at No. 1 singles, while sophomore R.J. Clement, who played No. 3 singles as a freshman last season, also returns.

Rounding out the singles lineup will be either Mark Hardy or Ryan Duncan, who formed a formidable No. 1 doubles team a year ago.

Whichever doesn't move up to singles will likely team with senior Forrest Huffman at No. 1 doubles, while Avery Balsavage, Avishek Somasundarum and Josh Winey also figure to contribute.

North will still have to fight hard to challenge strong teams like Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge for the Region 7-AAAAA championship, but Radloff believes the team's depth will give the Bulldogs a chance to do just that.

"This year starting out, we have what I feel is the best full team we've ever had since I've been here," Radloff said. "Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge will be our main competition, ... but we're expecting some good things this year."

The same can be said of the North girls, who have a different glass ceiling to break through after barely missing the postseason the past two years.

"Making the state tournament is definitely one of our main goals," North girls coach Forrest Wood said. "We've been just on the outside looking in the last two years, but ... I feel like we've got a good shot."

The Bulldogs will try to utilize a solid 1-2 punch of Super Six selections atop their singles lineup to take that shot not only at the state playoffs, but also challenging Peachtree Ridge for the region title.

Senior Shannon Bettiol is returning after earning All-County honors last year after going 11-4 at No. 1 singles and junior Hannah Serdinia joins the team off the summer USTA tournament circuit.

While Bettiol will spend most of the time at No. 1 singles, Wood prefers to think of the duo as Nos. 1 and 1a in his lineup.

"It's kind of like Peachtree Ridge with Jessica Northcutt and Abigail Owens," Wood said of Bettiol and Serdinia. "They're two players that are pretty close to each other."

Like the boys, the North girls also boasts plenty of depth and experience behind their two singles stars, led by junior Haley Wix, a three-year starter.