North Surry’s tennis team will have a drastically different look this fall after losing seven players and the head coach from last year.
The Lady Greyhounds lost most of their starting lineup from the past two years.
Gone through graduation are former starters Chainey Kuykendall, Chantel Davis, Lakin East and Jazzmyn Pugh. Katie Chandler also saw time in the starting lineup, and Tiffany Early was a starter earlier in her career before being sidelined with a knee injury.
Second seed Harriett Blackburn chose not to play this season, leaving only one starter and one reserve who saw live action last year: Sarah Glasco and Abby Lawson.
Lawson is a junior who has done well enough in challenge matches in practice to secure the number two spot to start the season.
Glasco is a senior who has been the top seed all four years at North. She won back-to-back singles titles in the Northwest Conference’s 2A brackets.
Now the Hounds join the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference with 2A schools Surry Central, South Stokes, West Stokes, Forbush and Carver.
It seems strange not to be in the same league as Mount Airy and East Surry, said rookie coach Maggie McKee.
Still that could benefit the Hounds as Mount Airy and Bishop McGuinness have dominated the top two spots the past few years.
McKee herself was part of that dominance when she played for the Lady Bears last decade.
She advanced all the way to the semifinal level of the 1A playoffs as a junior, then finished second in the state as a senior.
McKee also played varsity basketball all four years and finished in the top 10 in the state in multiple track and field events. She attended Catawba College on scholarship and played tennis all four years.
In only three and a half years, she graduated last December and began looking for a teaching job in mathematics. North Surry snatched her up and put her to work in January.
The young coach hopes to bring some stability to a program that has been in flux since long-time coach Rodney Pell retired from teaching three years ago.
Glasco is a senior, and she’s had a different coach every season, McKee noted. So, the coach wants to build a foundation for years to come.
“We are just now starting our program,” she said. With just two returning players, the squad is very young. Still, she has spoken to girls around the campus and had 18 come out for the team.
“They are working hard and really listening to pointers,” she said. As their coach, she wants to remain positive and help the players learn from every match.
“We’ll get there,” she said. “We’re not going to go down without a fight.”
Most of these players have never been in a real match before, she added. In fact, some have never been on a tennis team before. Meadowview Middle School doesn’t have a tennis team, so the girls haven’t had an opportunity to try.
McKee has told the squad that their emphasis should be on footwork and conditioning.
The opponent might have more experience and a prettier stroke, but that doesn’t they can’t win, she explained.
“You can have an ugly stroke, but if you can get to every ball and get one more ball back to your opponent, then it doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
Part of that conditioning side has been holding practices in the afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. Some teams might have practice in the morning to beat the heat, but four o’clock is when matches are scheduled, she said.
“Yes we want everyone to have a good time, but we want to work to get better, too,” she said. “We want to compete with the Mount Airys and Surry Centrals.”
The first match of the season is Monday at East Surry. Between now and then, the Hounds are holding challenge matches to determine the seeding.
After Glasco and Lawson, the upperhand for starting gigs appears to be going to three sophomores: Bailey Atkins, Rebecca Parsons and Hannah Southern.
That leaves several players vying for that sixth spot.
The team has five freshmen. Cassidy Williard is looking to make top six, said the coach, and she is joined by Emma Nichols, Abbey Stone, Belle Martin and Lauren Branch.