RIGHT COMBINATIONS COULD LEAD WAVE BACK TO 5A CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Gene Phelps
Tupelo High School’s bid to win a third consecutive Class 5A state championship in tennis depends a lot on what combinations its coach decides to use.
That shouldn’t be difficult when you consider that the Golden Wave coach, Amy Long, teaches math.
“We could contend for state, but it’s all in figuring the right combinations,” said Long, who coached Tupelo to its state title in 1994, while subbing for coach former coach Harriet Ellett. “Right now, everything’s wide open.”
The only position on the Tupelo roster that’s not wide open is in boys singles. Junior Jack Wilson, who won the 5A mixed doubles state title with Sarah Biegert, will play there.
“I think I’ve got a real good chance to win in singles,” he said. “There are about two or three guys in 5A and we’re all about even. I don’t think 5A is as strong as it has been.”
Senior Erin Montgomery, who lost in the 5A semifinals last season, and senior Sadie Gardner, who won the 5A girls doubles title with Susie Kilpatrick, also return.
In Class 4A, Oxford coach Britt Dickens opens the season without his biggest weapon junior two-time state singles champion Sara Love Swaney.
Swaney has moved to Jackson and is playing this season for Jackson Prep.
“We’ve got a bunch of young kids, seventh graders, but we’re going to throw them into the fire,” Dickens said.
Oxford’s top returning player is senior Greg Freeman, who could play singles or doubles.
In Class 3A, the battles in Division 1 should be exciting.
New Albany has its state champion boys doubles team of Rob Carter and Kris Corpstein returning. At Saltillo, Kendell Kimbrough, a semifinalist in girls singles, is back. Shannon’s Brent Conwill, who won the state mixed doubles crown last season with Amanda Robinson, returns for the defending state team champion Red Raiders. And, in Pontotoc, the defending girls state champion doubles team of Katherine Benjamin and Rachel Springer returns.
Division 1-3A has produced state champions in four of the five spots boys singles, girls singles, boys doubles, girls doubles, mixed doubles the last two seasons.
“Our division is one of the toughest,” said Shannon coach Don Christian, whose team won the state title last season but finished second in the division. “It’s going to be hard to get out of our division.”
Pontotoc coach Kevin Morrow tabs New Albany as the early favorite to win the division title.
“The rest of us are in the mix,” he said. “It’s going to be very competitive. Everybody’s got good players. Corinth is always good. It’s going to be a toss-up.”
Most of the 3A coaches agree that Eupora, which is in Division 2, is one of the state’s strongest teams.
“They moved up from 2A last year,” Shannon’s Christian said. “They are bad news. They’ve got a good shot to win 3A state.”