Joshua Raab kept things rolling through his junior year, leading Etowah to the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state tournament.
After going 34-1 through his first two seasons with the Eagles, Raab put together his second straight perfect season with a 12-0 record.
“It’s not really something I think about,” said Raab, the 2019 Cherokee Tribune Boys Tennis Player of the Year. “You just go out there and do what you have to do. You focus on winning all of your matches one at a time, and you just kind of look up at the end of the season and think about it then.”
Not only was Raab undefeated when he took to the court, he was barely challenged. He went the entire season without being pushed to a third set, and he never dropped more than two games in any set, thanks to his aggressive approach.
“You have to attack them from the beginning,” Raab said. “Once you get them down, you have to keep rolling and keep the momentum. You’re good for the match.”
While he was undefeated while playing at Etowah, Raab also had to balance his high school time with his individual tournaments.
A highly ranked junior player, Raab worked to split his time between practices and tournaments with playing for his school, though he worked to prioritize playing for Etowah.
“I look at the matches and see what the team needs,” Raab said. “I’m more than happy to do whatever the team needs. If they need me there, I’ll be there. I love playing with the guys.”
That approach was part of a larger shift in philosophy for Raab. His freshman season was his introduction to team tennis and, since then, he said he has gotten more comfortable with it every year.
“I’ve definitely adapted to the team environment more,” Raab said. “My freshman year was the first time I played for a team more than myself. It was pretty cool because, now that I’m through my junior year, I’ve learned to have more energy and pump my team up. It’s nice.”
Raab will have plenty of chances to keep playing team tennis in the future after committing to Tennessee in October. He said evaluating all of his options was important, but after a visit to Knoxville, he knew he found the school for him.
“I never was a big Tennessee fan,” Raab said. “I just knew I wanted to go to a big SEC school. I took one of my visits up there. The facilities were cool, the coaches were nice and I liked the players. They just kind of got me.”
First, though, Raab will have one more season at Etowah.
The Eagles will head into the 2020 season off their shortest postseason run since Raab arrived, but with the incoming talent and an offseason of work, he said the Eagles should be state contenders again.
“This year, the team had to learn a little bit with some of the guys we’ve lost in the last few years,” Raab said. “It was kind of a rebuilding year for us. I think we learned a lot, though, and can use that next year. We have the talent, and I think we can contend for a state title again next year.”