BANNER ELK — Lees-McRae College’s 2018 women’s tennis season was a challenge for everyone involved.
The Lady Bobcats completed their campaign last month with just six players on the roster, the minimum a team can have without having to forfeit individual matches. And after a promising start to the season in which they won four of their first five matches and were 2-0 in Conference Carolinas, things kind of fell apart for the team at season’s end. The shorthanded team lost its last five matches and finished with a 6-9 overall record.
Any objective person would offer kudos to the six players who stuck it out, knowing that they couldn’t afford to get hurt, and that practice opportunities to improve their game would be limited by a lack of bodies. One of those six was 2016 North Surry High School graduate Emily Harrison, who along with her five teammates wrapped up her second season of college tennis last month.
After earned All-Western Piedmont Athletic Conference honors as a senior for the Lady Greyhounds two years ago, Harrison moved on to Lees-McRae and joined the tennis team there. As a freshman, she had limited playing time, playing in just three singles matches and one in doubles. Her college debut was on Oct. 13, 2016, when she teamed up with Amanda Chapman in a doubles match against Catawba College. However, following that season, the school’s entire tennis program went through a coaching change and several players leaving the team. Harrison not only stayed the course, but also earned a spot in the starting lineup this past February for new head coach Rodger Acklin.
On Valentine’s Day, Harrison was in LMC’s starting lineup at No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles against conference rival Mars Hill. Lees-McRae won the match 5-4, with Harrison playing a key role in the victory. Along with her double partner Dakota Tittle, Harrison teamed to pick up a win out of the No. 3 doubles slot. In singles, which are played after doubles in college tennis, she clinched the match for the Bobcats with a 6-1, 6-0 win from the No. 6 singles position.
A few days later, Harrison was named the Conference Carolinas Women’s Tennis Player of the Week by the league office. The honor was not only the first for the Bobcats this season, but also the first weekly award that the program had received since 2009.
“She has been so positive and worked very hard throughout the process,” said Coach Acklin upon hearing of Harrison’s selection. “She is a great young lady and every coach’s dream in being open to improving and trusting her coach to help her improve.”
Three days after receiving the award, she was back in action against Converse College. Lees-McRae lost this one 5-4, but don’t blame Harrison, who decisively won her singles match and again teamed with Tittle for a doubles victory as well. She lost some matches against the top teams in the conference later in the season, but still ended the year with a respectable record — not a bad performance for a player who was only the No. 4 singles player on her high school team as a senior.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.