- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The two aces of the St. Mary’s County 2013 tennis season came out of Leonardtown High School in the form of Grace White and Madison Ellis.
As a doubles team, the two played to a 12-0 regular season, a runner-up finish at the Region IV tournament and a trip to the state tournament. The most-promising fact of it all: the duo, now seniors, are back.
Leonardtown head coach Adam Cropper has teamed the duo up again for this year, and the two will look to serve, volley and backhand their way back to the state tournament level.
But Ellis and White are just two components of a Leonardtown team littered with senior talent, including picking up a transfer in senior boys singles player Connor McKissick, an All-County selection as a junior while at St. Mary’s Ryken last spring.
Cropper’s roster is senior-laden with each player looking to play a critical role, and one of the few juniors on the team, Ruthie Hornbuckle at girls singles, has a senior-type résumé already with only one regular season loss to her name, which amounts to a 23-1 record.
And if all of that is not already enough for Leonardtown, coming into the season as three-time defending SMAC tournament champion should help.
“Everyone wants to win SMAC and regionals and move on to states, but the key lies in developing a strong work ethic and a sense of team pride and unity,” Cropper said.
At Great Mills, walking up to talk to players in between points will be a familiar face to Hornets players and opposing teams.
Treva Eversole has returned to the courts with the Hornets after a year off for her seventh year as head coach.
Eversole is three years removed from the 2011 season in which she and the Hornets won the school’s first-ever tennis regular season SMAC title and first-ever regional tournament title.
When Eversole or her coaching staff does offer mid-match advice this season, it will most likely be said to a senior as the returning coach inherits a team with at least nine seniors on the roster.
“The goal for the team is to improve each match, each practice and have a strong finish at the SMAC tournament,” she said.
At St. Mary’s Ryken, second-year head boys tennis coach Susan St. George wants to complain about the weather but admits that if everyone across the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference has to deal with the same weather conditions, then it cannot be a true worry.
The Knights were scheduled to play their first match of the season Thursday, too late for inclusion into this edition, against visiting Good Counsel after multiple postponements of other matches.
“Since all of the other teams also have not practiced, it really shouldn’t make any difference,” she said.
On a roster with only two seniors, St. George sees not only promise this year — in the form of a young competitive team challenging each other often — but in the building blocks that the young team represents.
While the SMAC has coed tennis that is played during the spring, boys tennis is competed in the WCAC in the spring, with girls tennis in the fall.
She called winning four matches last season “a miracle,” and her young and fiery team will look to replicate that feat this season.
There is a new face amongst the St. Mary’s County high school tennis coaches in Dr. Jeff Grote of Chopticon.
The new head man of the Braves program takes over for former two-year head coach Greg Shedd, who departed to coach a few miles down the road at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Grote takes over Chopticon after having no prior association with the program but said he was “thrilled” to be the new head coach.
Leading Grote from their respective singles positions will be juniors Patrick Capps and Tiffany Thompson.
“I would like to think that our athletes would get better as the year progresses, and as a result, we would become more competitive,” Grote said.
Tennis is now back in the county. Now only if the weather would cooperate.