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Comet girls tennis has strong mix of returning players

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Top, Members of the HCHS varsity girls tennis team are, from left, first row, Kendall Foushee, Dejah Britton, Amber Roane, Kassidy Irby. Second row, assistant coach Rhonda Reaves Savannah Reaves, Jelisaveta Janicijevic, Ashley Collins, Ashley Day, coach Donna Hudson. Not pictured, Alyssa Conde, RaeAnn Winegar, Summer Martin, Yasmine Ferrell. Above, Members of the HCHS jayvee girls tennis team are, from left, first row, Morgan Epperson, Katelin Cash, Rosa Anna Ruotolo, Maelyn Edwards, Second row, coach Rhonda Reaves, Ellie Hall, Kayla Watts, Courtney Craig, Blair Cole, coach Donna Hudson. Not pictured, Megan Lewis, Rose Routolo-Saranatero. / March 16, 2017
Halifax County High School girls tennis has a strong mix of returning players and coach Donna Hudson has expressed optimism about the new season.

“Girls tennis is off to a very great start this year. We have had more days outside for conditioning than in recent years, and we have a good number of returning players to give us a strong starting point. Eleven of the 12 varsity players were part of the team last year, either as varsity or as jayvee. This year’s varsity team has five seniors, six junior, and one freshman. We have a jayvee team that is a mix of experience and new players. It has three sophomores, two freshmen, and four eight graders. We have won two scrimmage matches so far. The win against Jefferson Forest was very encouraging, as they beat us solidly last year,” said Hudson.

Starting at 1 is senior Alyssa Conde. Last year Alyssa played either at 1 or 2, so she has good experience which will benefit her this year.

Hudson noted that Conde “knows the level of play that she will face.

Alyssa is more confident in her game this year, which we hope will make her more relaxed on the court. She has developed some top-spin and has strengthened her serve. She is focusing on improving strategic placement of her returns.”

At 2 Halifax has senior Savannah Reaves.

“Savannah played 3 last year, so she already is aware of the demands of playing near the top of the ladder.

“Savannah is a very focused, very competitive player. She pulled off a huge win for us at Bassett at the end of the season last year, so she knows she has the stamina to win a long tough match. She continues to work hard at practice and will be a force to be reckoned with at the two position,” said Hudson.

Three is being handled by junior Kassidy Irby. Kassidy was the team MVP last year, winning consistently from the 5 position.

“Kassidy has the skills to play competitively with anyone we will face. She has a strong mental game and she never gives up. She evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of her opponents and adjusts her game accordingly. Kassidy continues to be a player to watch,” said Hudson.

At positions 4 and 5, Halifax has seniors RaeAnn Winegar and Amber Roane.

“Both girls saw a little playing time last year in doubles, but worked through the summer and fall to improve their game to get themselves ready to earn a top 6 spot,” said Hudson.

“At 4, RaeAnn’s strength is in consistently placing the ball away from her opponent. She has some tricks up her sleeve in her angled shots that are loaded with a bit of top-spin. RaeAnn has a slow and steady approach which works well for her. At 5, Amber has a very different style. She is quick and she is aggressive. As Amber develops more control, she will be a formidable opponent,” said Hudson.

“Fortunately for the team, we have six players who are all candidates to play the 6 singles spot. On any given day, any one of these girls could win against any one of the others. That is going to be tough for them emotionally, as we will always have five very strong players watching the one other play that singles spot. These girls are all very competitive, but are also all good friends. It will make for an interesting season,” said Hudson.

“Earning that 6 spot for the scrimmage matches was junior Yasmine Ferrell.

Yasmine focuses on placement, and on moving her opponents around. She is a hard worker, and she is enthusiastic about learning new techniques. As Yasmine gains more experience in game situations, she will be a key part of our team,” said Hudson.

“Freshman Kendall Foushee is one of the top competitors for the 6 spot. She really pulled her game together in the last few weeks to get wins over some of the more experienced players. Kendall has a wealth of natural ability, and is very focused in developing her game. She played 3 doubles with Kassidy Irby in the Jefferson Forest game, and did a great job with her consistency and her determination to help with that win,” said Hudson.

“Junior Ashley Day could also move into the 6 spot. Ashley is very athletic. She has great movement on the court and has solid form. As she improves her focus, she definitely has the potential to move up the ladder,” said Hudson.

“Three other players who play at that same level as Yasmine, Kendall, and Ashley are junior Ashley Collins, senior Summer Martin,and junior Dejah Britton. Ashley Day moves up this year from the JV team, and she has shown great improvement. Ashley always plays very close, very long matches against anyone in this group. She doesn’t give up, and her play is impressive. She just needs to develop that competitive edge which will push her to the win.

“Summer Martin is another player who improved greatly over the summer and fall. She has nice low ground strokes and a strong serve. As she works out to improve her consistency, she too could move up the ladder.

“Rounding out this group is Dejah Britton, who is one of the most dedicated players I have had the pleasure to work with. Anytime you watch Dejah you know she should be playing in the top six. In the last two weeks her matches have all been close, and it will be very surprising if she doesn’t move up the ladder,” said Hudson.

“Rounding out the varsity team is newcomer Elizabeth Janicijevic, an exchange student who picked up the game rapidly this fall and winter. She took advantage of the days we had open court and came to almost all the days of conditioning, and so was able to get a slight edge in competing for a varsity position. Elizabeth is focused at practice and will be a solid tennis player as she continues to improve,” said Hudson.

Halifax kept a larger Jayvee team for 2017, moving from a team of five last year to a team of nine this year. The goal is to improve the experience of being on jayvee this year.

“We are hoping to do some things to assure this is more of a building program than it was last year. Our jayvee team is lead by returning players Kayla Watts, Katelin Cash, and Megan Lewis. All three of these players can play competitively with varsity players, and with some more experience will be important to us next year. They will definitely see some exhibition matches this year, and may be pulled up to fill in for varsity if the need arises. We added one new sophomore to jayvee, Courtney Craig, and one new freshman, Morgan Epperson. Courtney and Morgan both show much potential,” said Hudson.

“Rounding out the jayvee team are a strong batch of eighth graders: Ellie Hall, Blair Cole, Maelyn Edwards, and Rosa Anna Routolo-Sarnataro. The JV players practice with us and travel with us, but won’t actually play in any competition games. They are with us to learn and to improve and help build our team for next year, and we appreciate their dedication,” said Hudson.

Halifax has several very effective volunteers helping teach the girls.

Rhonda Reeves was a volunteer last year, and returned this year. Shane Foushee is also volunteering this year.

“Both Rhonda and Shane are instrumental in helping us do drills and become a more competitive team.

“They help with everything from strategies to planning to fundraising. Juanita Cross is also returning and is such a benefit to us as she helps our girls with fundamentals, and Jane Watts helps us with drills as well.

Additionally, we are expecting to include Lynn Carr and Emerson Pambid, who will be helping develop the jayvee players, and Shana Luck, who will work with varsity,” said Hudson.

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