Luke Roberts is like most proud fathers.
You don't have to search far in the Irwin County tennis coach's office to find a picture or two of his children.
“This one here was taken about a year ago," Roberts says, pointing to a picture taped to his office computer.
This particular picture is Roberts with much shorter hair, holding his young twin daughters.
"The follically challenged one is little Ella,” he laughs.
He pauses for a moment.
“I look at those pictures and, for one, I see why I do it,” he says.
Entering the 2015 season, Roberts' Lady Indians were the defending GHSA Class A-Public champs, and were expected to make a run at back-to-back titles.
In March though, real life stepped in and Roberts faced a father's worst nightmare.
“It was a very dangerous infection that had gotten into her femur bone and spread into her blood stream,” he says.
Roberts' four year old daughter Lana was rushed to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta with a fever of 105 degrees. She was diagnosed with osteomyelitis.
“It was a very dangerous situation," Roberts remembers. "It was scary.”
Roberts missed much of the season to be with Lana and his family in Atlanta. While he was gone, the Lady Indians thrived.
Irwin County went 13-0 in the regular season, shutting out each opponent they faced.
Despite the success, it felt like something was missing.
"We wanted our coach here, really bad. We just missed him," admits senior Maddie Carlton. "But we knew he needed to be up there in Atlanta.”
After nearly four weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit, Lana pulled through. She's now back home with her family, rehabbing.
Roberts' is back on the courts with his team, who will play for a second straight state championship and an undefeated season when they play Baconton Charter Saturday.
“We're planning on Lana being there to help them celebrate,” Roberts says.
He says this season has put things in perspective. Even if he can't put another trophy in his office, that's just fine. He thinks it's got plenty of decoration already.
“If we win the state championship, that's going to be awesome," he says. "But if we don't win it, it's still just a game."
He points at that picture taped to his computer.
"I've got that, and you can't put a price on that,” he says.
Irwin County plays Baconton Charter for the GHSA Class A-Public state championship Saturday morning in Jonesboro.
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