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Comet girls tennis in rebuilding year

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Top, Members of the HCHS varsity girls tennis team are from left, first row Kaylen Griles, Morgan Epperson, Ellie Hall and Kendall Foushee. Second row, Maelyn Edwards, Alyssa Heddings, Anna Lewis, Amanda Duffer, Rosa Anna Ruotolo-Sarnataro and head coach Donna Hudson. Third row, assistant coach Ronnie Roller, Megan Lewis, Blair Cole, Nya Brandon, Sarah Lacks and assistant coach Shane Foushee. Above, Members of the HCHS jayvee girls tennis team are, from left, first row, Emma Dalton, Jenna Hall and Keyana Watkins. Second row, assistant coach Ronnie Waller, Skylar McDowell, Shelby Irby, Ally Jones and Justyce Reed. Third row, head coach Donna Hudson and assistant coach Shane Foushee. / March 11, 2019

Halifax County High School varsity girls tennis is entering a rebuilding phase.

“2019 is going to be a very different kind of season for us. We lost five seniors last May, girls who played seeded positions in both singles and doubles. It should be a rebuilding year with hopes of simply getting more experience on the courts, but it actually looks to be a very promising season. We graduated five, but we are in the very fortunate position to be stacked with talented younger players ready to step up and compete,” said coach Donna Hudson.

“Our team this year will be a very young one. We have no seniors at all. Instead our varsity squad is made of six juniors, five sophomores, and two freshmen. The girls are young, but they are a group of very talented tennis players,” said Hudson.

Taking the number one position is junior Kendall Foushee. She has worked her way up to the four seed as a freshman, played two seed last year, and is going to be a formidable 1 seed this year.

“She’s incredibly athletic. She is focused and is willing to work to develop herself as a tennis player.

“She is a strategic player, analyzing her opponent and reacting to what she sees. Kendall has 1 win and 1 loss in scrimmages, but both those were against two of the strongest opponents she will face this year and she was very competitive against them. Kendall learns something new from every opponent she faces, so with two good matches under her belt she’s ready to begin district play,” said Hudson.

The two seed is sophomore Rosa Anna Ruotolo-Sarnataro.

“Rose is one of the smallest girls on the team, but we are starting to think of her as our secret weapon. When she steps on the court, she looks young and timid. When she plays, she is smooth and steady, but she doesn’t look formidable, and she doesn’t look aggressive. However, the proof is in the score sheets: she was undefeated at our six seed last year, and she has stolen matches against two formidable, aggressive opponents already this year. Rose simply focuses on returning every ball that comes to her, and she is determined enough to make that work. Rose is going to continue to be a frustrating factor for her opponents on the two court, and she is going to be a player to watch,” said Hudson.

Ellie Hall, another sophomore, is Halifax’s three seed.

“Ellie saw some action in doubles last year, partnering with another sophomore, Blair Cole, who is our four seed. These two girls have really strengthened their games, and we are expecting good things from them as they get a little singles experience under their belts. Both girls had come-from-behind wins at our first scrimmage, and both played impressively against strong opponents at the second scrimmage. As they build some confidence, we are certain they will be competitive as we go into district games,” said Hudson.

The Comet fifth seed is freshman Sarah Lacks.

“Sarah has had good challenge experience as we built our ladder, and seems solid in her position already.

“She did well in both scrimmages, defeating easily at Randolph, and battling through against a strong opponent at JF. It was great for her to get experience with playing a Tie Breaker there. With two wins under her belt, she is ready to represent us well in the coming games. Sarah is athletic and she is fast; as we help her develop a little more intentional placement in her strokes she will be even stronger,” said Hudson.

Sophomore Maelyn Edwards stepped up to grab the six seed spot this year.

“Maelyn is a smart tennis player, with a solid forehand and good ball placement. She floundered against her RH opponent, but adjusted well to take a focused win at JF. At the six spot, she will face opponents of varying skill, and will need to continually adjust her game according to her opponent, and that can be a challenge. She can hit hard and low, and she stays focused. We’ll be working with Maelyn to improve her footwork and her movement on the court,” said Hudson.

Following Edwards, Halifax has some tough competition nipping at her heels for time in the line-up. There has been lots of shuffling for the 6-7-8-9 and 10 spots of the ladder, and there is liable to be more shuffling as we get nice weather for practice and challenge matches in. Currently at seven is a tennis-newcomer, junior Nya Brandon.

“Nya has never played before, but she has taken to the sport like a natural. She listens, she internalizes, and she practices with focus. She is already a strong opponent, and is likely to see some doubles action in the coming weeks,” said Hudson.

“Close at Nya’s heels are three more promising challengers, junior Megan Lewis, sophomore Amanda Duffer, and junior Morgan Epperson. Only a few games separate all these girls on the ladder, so we could easily have shuffled positions there in the coming weeks. Lewis and Epperson both bring some tennis experience with them, both having played with the team in the past. Megan took a year off last year, but is back and is ready to play this season. Morgan played in some doubles matches last year, and is hitting well with potential to see more competition this year. Newcomer Amanda Duffer first picked up a racquet during January conditioning, but Amanda is a natural. It’s been really fun to see her become competitive so quickly. These girls can all stick with each other when they play, so where they land in the ladder is going to be a matter of who has more determination and more focus, and on who has a good day in challenge matches,” said Hudson.

Rounding out the varsity squad are two juniors, Kaylen Griles and Anna Lewis, and one freshman, Alyssa Hedding.

“Kaylen and Alyssa both played as jayvee players. Kaylen is an enthusiastic player who hits with great power. Her focus in practice has been to add control, and she is making progress there. Alyssa is a young player who has invested a lot of time on court.

“She played consistently all summer, and her skill level is steadily improving. Anna just started playing tennis this January, but she also seems to have a good knack for it. She had to defeat quite a few players during try-outs to get a spot on varsity, and she continues to improve with each practice,” said Hudson.

“We are working as coaches to find our best doubles strategy this year. We have looked at different combinations of the top six players as partners, and will be continuing to sort that out in the coming weeks. At one, Kendall has two years of doubles experience to her credit. Ellie and Blair partnered several times competitively last year, so both are already fairly confident doubles players. They both developed nice aggressive styles of play that is fun to watch. One of them will likely be paired with Kendall, and the other with Rose. Neither Rose, Sarah, nor Maelyn has much doubles experience, but they are going to be put to the fire. We could also possibly pull up from the 7-8-9-10 pool, as those girls are all talented and ready to play,” said Hudson.

“It’s going to be interesting for us to work with such a young, overall inexperienced group. They are good listeners and are eager to learn, so that is a huge first step. We are looking forward to helping develop them into competitors. Our plan will be to go back to fundamentals on some courts while we talk angles and topspin on other courts. Hopefully we will be able to pull it all together for a strong season,” said Hudson.

Halifax has great coaching help again this year. Shane Foushee and Ronnie Roller both volunteer for us, and both put in many hours both on court and off. We watch together, we talk, we think, it’s great to have them working with me.

They both offer tennis expertise that’s been the critical factor in helping us do so well, and they are such positive, influential leaders. The time they give our girls is a wonderful thing,” said Hudson.

Jayvee report

Halifax County is building for the future with its girls tennis jayvee program.

“We have seven jayvee players, giving us 20 girls on the courts when we all are practicing. That’s a lot of girls. This squad is made of two new tenth graders, three new ninth graders, and two slightly experienced eighth graders. Joining tennis as sophomores are Shelby Irby and Skylar McDowell. Shelby has watched her brother develop into a read competitor on the boys’ team, and decided to give it a try herself this year. She’s a fast learner and has a ton of potential. Skylar is also hitting well for a new player, and should come right along with practice. Ninth grade jayvee players are Allyson Jones, Emma Dalton, and Justyce Reed. These girls all had to work to learn the game and beat out other players to make the cut. From the eighth grade, we have another new player, Jenna Hall, who has attended camp with us and played some this fall at Open Court. We also have eighth grader Keyana Watkins.

“This will be Keyana’s second year on the jayvee squad. She has a year of tennis under her belt, having practiced last season and having spent quality time on court all summer and fall. Her dedication has helped her develop into an impressive young player, and we are expecting good things from her in the coming year,” said Hudson.

“Our jayvees do not have any competition matches available, but they watch a lot of tennis and they stay on the courts thru the season with what limited practice time we can give them. Hopefully they, and anyone else who is interested, can attend our clinic this summer and continue to play thru the summer,” said Hudson.

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