Southland’s Ila Johnson headed to GIAA girls’ state tennis tournament

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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AMERICUS – Another stellar local high school student-athlete is on the cusp of great success. Southland Academy Ila Johnson recently qualified for the GIAA Class AAA girls state tennis tournament, which will be played on Monday, April 17, at Berry College in Rome, GA.

Johnson made it to the state tournament a year ago as a freshman, but lost in the first round to eventual state champion Merrill Bean of Frederica Academy.

Johnson, who also plays softball and basketball for the Lady Raiders, started playing tennis when she was just 10 years old and began to like it from then on out. “I really liked it because it was more of an individual sport and I’ve been use to playing team sports,” Johnson said. She also went on to say that she got into it because she needed somewhere to go after school.

Johnson has won about 11 matches this year as a sophomore and according to SAR Head Coach Carl Willis, has improved by leaps and bounds and has the potential to be a great player by the time she becomes a senior.

“Ila has been totally dedicated to improving and sharpening her skills,” Willis said. “What is so amazing is that she is just a sophomore. She makes sure to push and get better each and every practice. We talk about scoring points and not worrying about hitting winners. She continues to grow and improve daily. Coach Bailey, Coach Lowe, and I consider it a privilege to coach Ila who is such a hard working athlete,” Willis continued.

Johnson is ready to return a two-handed backhand shot.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

As far as what she needs to prepare for going into the state tournament, Johnson believes that she needs to dish out and be ready for a lot of hard serves, as well as ball placement. As far as what the best part of her game is, Johnson believes it’s her consistency. As far as what she most needs to work on, she believes that it’s her back hand shot and ground strokes.

Ila Johnson is seen here practicing and is about to return a serve with another two-handed backhand.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Johnson has not found out who her opponent in the first round will be as of yet, but she will be playing in her first round match at state on Monday, April 17, at approximately 10 a.m. at Berry College in Rome, GA.