For as long as he can remember, Marvin Ridge sophomore George Lovitt has been influenced by sports. With both parents former college athletes – his mom, Claudine, played tennis at Colgate University while his dad, Kevin, played hockey at Brown before stints in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers – Lovitt knew from the beginning that sports would be an integral part of his life.
And at just 16 years old, he’s proving that he inherited his parents’ athletic abilities.
Lovitt’s love of sports began with hockey when he was 4 years old and his family lived in Ohio. Even after they moved to North Carolina, Lovitt stuck with the hockey while playing tennis some on the side. It wasn’t until he was 12 that he decided to make tennis his full-time sport – and it’s a decision that’s paying off in a big
“I lived so close to tennis courts that it was hard not to play regularly,” he said. “Before I gave up hockey, I knew that I would eventually have to choose between the two. Eventually tennis just won me over. I started playing in leagues and tournaments and the hours increased. I knew it was something I didn’t want to give up.”
Lovitt made a splash on the Marvin Ridge tennis team last year earning a spot as the Mavs’ No. 1 singles’ player immediately, leading them to a 14-2 record and the third round of the Class 3A playoffs. Playing at the toughest spot in the lineup, Lovitt finished his freshman season 18-3, dropping his only matches to Charlotte Country Day’s Will Turner (Boston College), Ardrey Kell’s Josh Du Toit (UNC-Wilmington) and Cardinal Gibbons’ 3A state singles’ champion Robert Kelly in the second round of the tournament.
In conference play, he dominated Union County, winning 96 of his 106 total games last season.
“It was a great experience playing at the No. 1 seed as a freshman,” Lovitt said. “I had some great matches and some really tough matches. It’s exciting to be able to help carry the team from that position. Tennis is definitely a team sport but there is pressure that comes from playing at Line 1.”
Ready to begin his sophomore season in the same dominating fashion that carried him through last year, Lovitt grabbed a huge win over Catholic’s Grant Stuckey to kickoff what he hoped would be an undefeated regular season.
But misfortune stepped in two weeks ago. During a match, Lovitt was running after a ball when he fell and fractured his left wrist, leaving him in a cast for four weeks and his hope of an undefeated season dashed. Fortunately for the Maverick team, Lovitt has still been able to compete since his racket hand is his right hand, only having to adjust to the weight of the cast and his serve toss.
“When I landed on it, I knew something happened,” he said. “I was hoping for that undefeated regular season but unfortunately things happen and that didn’t go my way. Once I get out of my cast, I still hope to win big matches and not lose anymore. I’m hoping to make a run at states both individually and as a team. I think that’s possible.”
But Lovitt, already a four-star recruit and the No. 5 ranked player in North Carolina’s Class of 2016 according to Tennisrecruiting.net, won’t be leading the Maverick quest for a conference championship and state title run alone, stating that this year’s lineup is even stronger than last year.
“We’re solid,” he said. “We have a lot of talented freshmen and several key players who will help carry the weight of the team and win big matches for us.”
Coach Julie van Olden said that it’s the depth, youth and talent on this team that will make 2014 a special year for the Mavs. Whereas it’s usually the norm to have upperclassmen competing at the top of the lineup, the Mavericks have two sophomores and a freshman at their top three seeds.
At Line 2, freshman John Hatala, younger brother of former Mav stars Bobby and Joey Hatala, is already making a name for himself while sophomore Avanish Madhavaram was a state qualifier last year and conference singles runner-up behind Lovitt. Junior Hayden Wohlfarth has started the season at Line 4 while Lines 5 and 6 are still being determined, as van Olden said there’s more than enough talent on the Maverick team to vie for a spot in the coveted top six spots.
Freshmen Liam Florian and Michael Kronovet have started the season at Lines 5 and 6 but with Andrew Viditz-Ward and Bailey Paige still in the mix, it’s anyone’s game to land the final two spots.
“We have so much deserving talent on this team,” she said. “George deserves to be at the top of the lineup. He’s earned that. But one player can’t win games and we’re fortunate to have such a great middle school program that helps develop these young athletes and their talent. The majority of our players could be interchangeable in the lineup. It’s that tight and on any given day, anything could happen.”
With a good start to the season and talent extending well beyond the Top 6, the Mavs are out to prove they have what it takes to win the conference and go far in the state tournament, ready to compete against perennial tennis powers like Chapel Hill and Cardinal Gibbons.
And Lovitt will be spearheading the charge.
Lovitt said he’ll be spending his spring break visiting William & Mary and Georgetown – two programs that are already showing interest in him. He said that playing in college is definitely one of his personal goals.
“I’m still young so I have plenty of time to get a feel for different schools and programs,” he said. “But I would love to play in college.”
When he’s not busy helping the Maverick team, playing in tournaments or taking private lessons, Lovitt said he loves volunteering with Kids Heart Felt Health, a 501©3 organization that his mom founded in order to introduce underprivileged children in Charlotte to healthy cooking, eating and fitness.
“Kids Heart Felt Health is a really admirable program and I really enjoy getting to volunteer there,” he said. “Tennis is very time consuming but I work with my mom every chance I get. I like getting to help out.”
Van Olden said that it’s Lovitt’s dedication, maturity and selflessness on and off the court that will help carry the Maverick team this season while developing Lovitt into one of the state’s strongest competitors by the time he’s a senior. And it’s clear he’s already well on his way.
“I describe George like they describe Jonny Cash – steady like a train, sharp like a razor,” van Olden said. “That’s how I feel about George. He’s not going to give up points easily. Hitting the ball back one more time is usually going to have a greater effect than powering through a shot. He has so many positive aspects about his game and off the court, he’s an incredible kid.”