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Tennis star finishes first year unbeaten

Barrow MVP

POSTED: June 21, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Apalachee tennis freshman Chandler Hagan, here wearing a Georgia tennis hat, dreams of one day playing for UGA.

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Freshman Chandler Hagan had a better season for Apalachee tennis than most would have ever expected. In fact, Hagan finished his freshman season and first year in varsity tennis without a single loss.

“It gave me hope. It was my first real competition with tennis, and I did good. It drove me to keep going and gave me hope for the future,” Apalachee varsity tennis player Chandler Hagan acknowledged.

Hagan is the first Apalachee tennis player to finish with an undefeated season and the first Barrow County tennis player since Winder-Barrow’s Drake Bernstein finished the 2007 season 17-0.

In just his first year on the varsity squad, Hagan managed an unblemished 11-0 record, missing two matches due to a bicep injury.

The upcoming sophomore has already achieved quite a bit as a relative newcomer to the world of tennis, between his one season as a varsity player in high school and his two and a half years playing with family and taking private lessons, and he can trace most of it back to one of his favorite pastimes.

“It was an easy decision,” Hagan said of his choice to play tennis. “I started out watching at Georgia and then I just went to the courts and hit some. My dad was helping me a lot, so we stuck with it, and here we are.”

Even with the summer offseason in full swing, Hagan makes time to practice his game, whether with dad, David, or his private coach, Don Dixon in Dacula, although his usual practice facility is currently out of commission.

“It used to be Apalachee. The past month, though, it’s been resurfaced,” Hagan alluded. “I’ve got my coach in Dacula I see and me and my dad will go out to Fort Yargo and we’ll hit for two hours.”

Though the resurfacing is a mild inconvenience for Hagan and all the tennis players at Apalachee, he looks forward to the fall and the spring when those new courts will be ready to host Wildcat tennis on a grand scale.

“I like it. We didn’t have cracks, which was a good thing, but it was moldy. Having it clean, it cleans your mind when you’re hitting. The ball may bounce differently, I don’t know yet, but I’m looking forward to it,” Hagan mentioned.

Much of Hagan’s drive and passion to keep improving his game comes from one simple goal: to improve and to push his team further.

Even though tennis season is almost a year away, still, Hagan already knows what he wants to see the Apalachee men’s team do in 2015.

“I want us to make state,” Hagan admitted with no hesitation. “We were so close this year, so close, and if we can continue to thrive and grow and practice and sweat, I think we can make it this year.”

Throughout the 2014 season, Hagan did all he could to push Apalachee to a playoff worthy season by not losing a single match, but that does beg one obvious question for next season. What’s next?

Hagan finds himself in the unique position where he has room to grow, but from one point of view, there is no room to improve. The best he could do individually is to equal last season’s performance.

“If you just can keep it up, your first and the guy is behind you, you just have to keep it up and hope he doesn’t pass you. You just have to keep it up,” Hagan noted. 

With the departure of senior Wildcat Dima Sorokopud, Hagan will undoubtedly move up to either first singles or second singles for the 2015 season. Hagan will also be a year older and in prime position to take on a leadership role with the team, and that is an honor he bears with combined pride and solemnity.

“It’s more responsibility, sort of. They know that I probably will be one or two, and they’ll be looking up to see if I can keep up what I did last year,” Hagan pointed out. “It gives them a role model and someone to look up to.”

Since Hagan has found success so early in his tennis career, it would be easy to assume that he already has everything together and no longer has need of instruction. Apalachee tennis coach Dan Woschitz begs to differ, though.

“He is hungry for instruction, and he is not satisfied with his current level of play, so he will continue to develop and improve,” Woschitz explained. “I give Chandler one of my highest compliments in that he is coachable. Being coachable is the best skill that any athlete can have. It allows an athlete to reach their potential. It allows them to push themselves and to be pushed to new heights in their play.

“I’m excited for Chandler as he grows as a tennis player and as a young man,” Woschitz added.

Hagan has already made a name for himself at Apalachee and could really make a splash if his career continues to grow. 

Former Bulldogg Bernstein finished his last three seasons undefeated, not losing a match from 2005 through 2007, for a career record of 82-1. Over his four years of high school, Bernstein held a 79-match winning streak. 

For the Wildcats, the best comparison to Hagan may be all-time leader Matt Trippy. In 2006, Trippy finished 13-3 at number one singles for the best season ever…until Hagan’s 11-0. Trippy also set the all-time wins record for Apalachee as he finished high school with a 39-19 accumulation. With three more years as a varsity starter and with easily 40 matches or more to play in his high school career, Hagan is on a path to eclipse Trippy’s mark and make legacy for himself with the Wildcats.

Should Hagan accomplish that task, he will give himself a good shot at reaching his ultimate goal of playing college tennis. Not only does Hagan want to play college tennis, though. He hopes to one day grace the courts where his own love of the game started.

“I want to play at UGA. I watch probably half of their home matches a year, and they’re good,” Hagan beamed. “That’s a goal for me.”

Until that time, though, Hagan knows there is a long way to go.

“I’ve got to do good and prepare for college,” Hagan noted. “I want to help my team get to state and go undefeated as a team.”

Tennis is a unique sport, especially at the varsity high school level, because athletes are competing both individually and as a team. Even a singles player puts their best effort out there in hopes that he or she can grab a win both for the team and the individual.

In that regard, Hagan understands his unique responsibilities as a team leader for Apalachee.

“It’s a lot like a line in football. If you hold up your own, your quarterback won’t get sacked,” Hagan compared. “If you all hold up your line in tennis, you’re most likely going to win.”

Hagan hopes to keep going in his win streak and perhaps climb to the spot of number one singles for Apalachee so he can continue to help his team out in that position, but he will admit there are personal reasons.

“If I can be undefeated at number one, that would really be good. In a way, that would be saying you’re the best in the region, but that’s a real big goal of mine,” Hagan acknowledged.

Even though he will readily claim his personal goals, Hagan knows that team success is the first priority at Apalachee, and it is a lesson that he learned in a powerful way.

Hagan’s teammate and frequent mentor Sorokopud lost a match to one of Heritage’s best players during the 2013 season while Hagan was on the JV squad and just watched, and Sorokopud had hoped to get a second crack at that player again in 2014. Unfortunately for him, that opportunity fell to Hagan.

“This year I got to play him, and they were really cheering me on. Dima was so close to winning. He wanted the chance to play him again, but it fell to me,” Hagan remembered. “I won and I remember he was proud of me and congratulated me afterwards.”

Now, Hagan has a chance to be the leader and encourage his teammates in the near future. 

With all of the success Hagan has found this season and perhaps into the future, he is quick to credit all those who have helped him, including family and faith.

“I want to thank God. He has blessed me so much and brought me to where I am,” Hagan mentioned before adding one other person of importance to him in his father.

“I feel like I can trust him. I can understand him easier. We watch tennis together, and we talk together while we’re watching,” Hagan added. “We don’t really play together, but he knows what would happen.”


 

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