Boys Tennis Preview: Pate, White Looking to Claim Top Spot in Polk
Sat. February 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | By Rick Brown
ALL SAINTS' TYLER PATE is a strong contender to take home a county title this year. (Photo by GEORGE AYCRIGG | SPECIAL TO THE LEDGER)
By RICK BROWN
The previous four years, when there have been discussions about boys tennis in Polk County, the discussion usually began and ended with Danny Mack.
Mack was a four-time County Player of the Year who never lost a match to a county opponent in his tenure.
Now, with Mack off to college, the field to replace Mack is wide open.
The East-West Polk County Championships will be held March 18-20.
Two players who are strong candidates are All Saints' Academy junior Tyler Pate and George Jenkins senior Gavin White.
And while both players' main goal is to help their teams get to state, they both agree winning the county championship would be a nice feather in their caps.
Pate has won district and regional titles and has played in the state tournament in singles and doubles but has never won county.
"That is one goal of mine," admitted Pate. "Two times, I was really close to beating (Mack in the East-West County Championships). At the high school level it is important. Although you don't get any points or college recognition, it's something I haven't done and something I'd like to do."
For White, after being in Mack's shadow for the past three years, this is his last opportunity to claim the county's top prize.
"Yes, it's important," he said. "It would be great because I've always come in second to Danny so winning would be nice."
White's coach Gregg Mays thinks White and Pate will decide the county's top players.
"I think the West County is Gavin's to lose," he said. "I think the East County is Tyler's to lose. I think the only player with the game to beat Tyler would be (Winter Haven's Blake Dantzler) but I don't know if he can.
"Tyler may be getting better," Mays said. "Gavin will have to go out and be willing to grind."
Pate has the upper hand so far this season.
He has played both White and Dantzler on consecutive days and came away with victories.
"As a tennis player, it's all about confidence," Pate said. "If you win, that's a big confidence builder. It gives you the motivation of knowing, ‘hey, I can do this.'"
The loss also provided a little motivation to White.
"It meant something," he said. "It showed I need to work harder and that anybody can be beaten on any given day. Everyone's good."
Pate welcomes the fact that players will be gunning for him this season.
"It really makes me focus that much more," Pate said. "Whenever I have someone who wants to take me out, I work harder to make sure that doesn't happen."