By Todd Vinyard

Daily Journal

Northeast Community College tennis coach Millard Lothenore says this is one of the best men’s teams he has had in six years of coaching, but it didn’t start out that way.

“We lost our first two matches and then we have not lost since,” Lothenore said. “These guys have just come together and started playing real well.”

Northeast’s men (11-2) look to keep rolling at the Junior College State/Region 23 Tournament today through Sunday in Jackson. The Lady Tigers along with Itawamba’s men and women squads will also be competing for shots to move on to nationals.

Last year the Tigers finished third in State/Region 23 tourney play with a team made of mostly freshmen, but Lothenore thinks a balance of experience and youth could make this a year for even bigger things.

“We had some jitters starting out, but once we got everybody in the right places we have been fine,” said Lothenore, whose team includes three sophomores and three freshmen.

Northeast’s men knocked off defending state champ Hinds 5-4 in Corinth on Aug. 19th.

Jason Freeman of Tishomingo County remained unbeaten at the number 6 singles spot with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Austin Miller. Another undefeated player this year is Chris Austin of Alcorn Central at number 3 singles. Brandon Hankins and Jason Kay have also played key roles for the Tigers.

Sophomore Bobby Middleton of Corinth leads the way for NEMCC. Last year Middleton made it to the semifinals at the State/Region 23 match.

The Lady Tigers have not faired as well as their male counterparts, but it is not due to lack of effort.

“I think the girls probably practice harder than the guys,” Lothenore said.

Ann Carter and Alicia Ferrell picked up Northeast’s only women’s win against Hinds at the number three doubles.

ICC’s Lady Indians will try to work from the bottom up to win this weekend. Despite having three former state high school champions – Monda Lamb of Pontotoc, Amanda Robinson of Shannon and Susie Kilpatrick of Tupelo – ICC (9-3) is counting on contributions at the 4 through 6 positions to advance to nationals.

“Teams like Hinds and Jones are so strong in the top three positions we really need those bottom three to come through,” ICC women’s coach Linda Partlow said.

Kathy Herndon at number 4 singles, Dana Wise at number 5 and Kelly Homan at number 6 need to have a good tournament Partlow said.

“The south region is very strong, so we have our work cut out for us,” Partlow said.

Coach Paul Johnson and his ICC Indians, 2-10 on the year after going 9-2 a year ago, also have some work left in front of them.

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