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Girls tennis looking to have a strong season

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Top, Members of the HCHS varsity girls tennis team are, from left, first row, Kassidy Irby, Ellie Hall, Ashley Collins, Ashley Day and Courtney Craig. Second row, Rosa Anna Ruotolo-Sarnataro, Kendall Foushee, Dejah Britton, Yasmine Ferrell and Manager Keyana Watkins. Third row, coach Donna Hudson, Maelyn Edwards, Morgan Epperson, Blair Cole, assistant coaches Shane Foushee and Ronnie Roller. Above, Members of the HCHS jayvee girls tennis team are, from left, first row, Ainsley Gasperini, Faith Stillwell, Sara-Beth Talley, Kaylen Griles and Alyssa Heddings. Second row, coach Donna Hudson, Sarah Lacks, Velda Asare, assistant coaches Shane Foushee and Ronnie Roller. / March 15, 2018
Halifax County High School girls tennis has a strong prospective for a good season, according to coach Donna Hudson.

“I am very optimistic about the prospect for a good season. We have a fantastic group of very strong players on the varsity team this year. We had four of the top six players graduate last year, but we have experienced players ready to fill those gaps,” she said.

“Everybody who is on varsity this year is a returning player, with half of them coming from last year’s varsity roster and half coming from last year’s jayvee roster.

“We have senior Kassidy Irby playing one, and she is a true competitor. Kassidy is hitting as well as any number one I have seen. As our top seed, she will face the toughest competition, but she’s a fine player and is ready to take that on. She is also a great team leader, and that’s important for a team.

“Kassidy looked really good in our scrimmage at Jefferson Forest last week. She didn’t win her match, but she played competitive, aggressive tennis against a very intimidating opponent. Her footwork was good, and her serves were good. I am happy to see her playing at the level she is playing at this early in the season,” said Hudson.

“At two we have Kendall Foushee, a sophomore, who is going to be incredibly fun to watch this year. She had a great start in our scrimmage game, taking it to JF’s number two girl. She identified her opponent’s weakness and worked on her for a win. Kendall is a very focused, very strategic player and should do well at the top of our ladder. Kassidy and Kendall played as Number two doubles partners last year, and will be moving into the Number one doubles spot as an experienced team.

“They communicate well on the court and have fun doing it, so that’s going to be very good for us as a team, too,” said Hudson.

“After the top two, we have a great advantage in having a very deep bench - I have seven players vying for positions three-six, and any one of them will be competitive. We just have to see who gets their game the sharpest to make the line-up. Senior Dejah Britton is currently holding the number three seed. She had a good showing in the scrimmage, and should be able to hold that position. Dejah is a hard hitter. Once we work on her footwork and get her angles a little sharper she will be strong at three,” said Hudson.

“Senior Ashley Collins is playing number four, but really will have to stay on top of her game to fend off number five senior Yasmine Ferrell, number six freshman Rose Ruotolo-Sarnataro, and number seven senior Ashley Day. When these girls play each other, their matches are always within a few games. On any given day, any one of these girls can beat any of the others ... which is a great problem to have.

“Also knocking at their doors are two freshmen, number eight Ellie Hall and number nine Blair Cole. Rose, Ellie, and Blair all have been on the courts with us for a year now, playing jayvee as eighth graders and now on varsity as ninth graders. They all spent a lot of time during the summer, during open court and during conditioning getting their games ready to play,” said Hudson.

Rounding out the varsity team are junior Courtney Craig, freshman Maelyn Edwards, and sophomore Morgan Epperson. They also played jayvee last year, and spent pre-season time developing their game. These girls are strengthening their tennis every week. Fortunately for us, this year I have two very knowledgeable volunteer assistants, both of whom are really invaluable to improving the caliber of tennis that we are playing. Shane Foushee is helping again this season. He started teaching the girls to add top-spin last year, and we’ll continue with that effort. He has also helped the girls focus on placement, and we are seeing much improvement in that already. “We also have a new volunteer this year, Ronnie Roller. Ronnie is great at watching a players and immediately offering multiple simple adjustments for improvements. He and Shane will both be helping some of the seeded players fine-tune their ground strokes in the coming weeks, and we expect to have a stronger three-six for that effort. Juanita Cross, who has helped in the past, is recovering from a minor surgery, but will likely be back on the courts with us soon,” said Hudson.

“As a coach, I am extremely grateful for the expertise these volunteers bring to this team, and the girls are as well. Last year we had 10 wins and four losses for the season. We lost twice to Randolph Henry, once to Bassett, and once to Franklin County - all very strong teams with great reputations in tennis. I felt that was an extremely successful season. This year our top two seeds are as strong as we have ever had, and we will be in good shape in the three-six seeds as well. We are hoping our depth will make for consistent wins at five and six, and we know one and two will face the strongest competitors. We will be working hard to get the strongest girls in those middle positions because those are where the matches are likely to turn for the better or worse for us. We have a jayvee team of seven players this year. The jayvees do not have any games scheduled, but they participate in some practice sessions and attend games to watch and learn. This year we have tenth graders Sara-Beth Talley and Kaylen Griles, ninth graders Faith Stillwell and Velda Asare, and a talented bunch of middle schoolers who made the team. “From eighth grade we have Sarah Lacks, Alyssa Hedding, and Ainsley Gasperini. We also have a seventh grader, Keyana Watkins, who isn’t eligible to make the team, but will be our manager this year. Keyana started this fall coming to open court, stuck with it, and has become a pretty impressive player,” said Hudson.

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