Walton girls tennis coach Anthony Foti returned his team to the top of Class AAAAAAA, as the Lady Raiders capped off an undefeated season with a state championship victory.
In Foti’s sixth year at Walton, the team won its 17th straight region championship and defeated reigning champion Lambert 3-1 in the state finals to win the fourth state championship under Foti, and the 21st overall.
With the Lady Raiders’ return to the peak, Foti is the 2021 Cobb County Girls Tennis Coach of the Year.
“I’m honored to be named coach of the year,” Foti said. “There’s a lot of great coaches in the county, and a lot of the people that we played against did an excellent job. To win this award means a lot because I know that a lot of my colleagues did a really fantastic job, and I’m very appreciative.”
Walton lost only four sets all season. It did not lose a set for two months at one point during the season.
Foti said that he would put this year’s state championship “right at the top,” of his list, along with the first one he won back in 2016. He said the first one was great because Walton was not expected to win.
This state championship was so special, according to Foti, because of the group of girls he worked with.
“This was my favorite team personality-wise,” he said. “The kids were hard workers and they were very deserving. That makes a difference from a coaching perspective — when you have these games, when you have a group of girls that you really like, and you want to see them succeed because they deserve it.”
Walton’s 2021 team was completely different from the one from two years ago. Foti said that the core of this year’s team were freshmen and sophomores.
Despite their lack of experience, Foti said he noticed quickly how dedicated they were to the sport.
“This team never took a day off. We never had a match where they didn’t come in focused or lackadaisical in any way,” he said. “They were mature and I was really impressed with this group of kids on how they didn’t get overly emotional, and they were pretty even-keeled the entire year.”
With all the success this year, Walton may be set to repeat as state champion, considering it had only one senior graduating this year, and she did not start in their playoff run.
Foti said that he is challenging his players to keep that determination and focused mindset if they want to repeat as state champions.
“We can’t assume because we’re reigning state champions that we’re better than the teams that you’re playing,” Foti said. “That’s one thing I really look forward to, which is challenging the girls next year to maintain that focus and that drive to win another (state championship), because I do believe that this is the most talented group of girls I’ve ever coached.”