Friday, August 10, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe tennis after third title

Leader sportswriter

Leadership has changed but the tradition continues for the Beebe tennis team as the Badgers and Lady Badgers prepare to defend their 5A East Conference titles in 2012.

Beebe tennis has captured the league titles for the past two seasons on both the boys and girls sides, and new head coach Brian Davis said the returning players from those teams give them a chance to repeat once again.

“We’re pretty excited,” Davis said. “We would love to see a third conference title in a row – that’s what the kids are looking for. We feel like we have a pretty good chance at it.”

Returning on the boys’ side is the doubles team of Ben Groove and Than Kersey, who reached the quarterfinals of the 5A state tournament last spring.

“They started practicing with us as eighth graders,” Davis said. “The older kids didn’t learn their names and just called them ‘good tennis kids’ and things like that, but they’ve both grown into their games now that they’re older. They’re a pretty impressive team.”

Senior Annlee Glass splits her time between tennis and the Lady Badger Basketball team, where she serves as a backup post player to Division I prospect Angelina Williams. Playing both sports sometimes requires Glass to go straight from one practice to another.

“She’s been really good with that and has never complained,” Davis said. “You can always count on her to be in good shape. She’s had a different doubles partner every year because she’s always been paired up with seniors, so she’s exploring new doubles partners this year.”

One possible partner for Glass in doubles play is returner Erin Langley, who Davis said has become more aggressive at the net this season.

Jared Ashbrenner is another two-sport player who also starts on the Mark Crafton-led baseball team. Ashbrenner finished second in singles play last year as a junior.

“He’s one player you don’t want to face,” Davis said. “Hewill wear you down, and wear you out.”

Leading singles players on the girls’ side is Madelyn Poe, another multi-sport athlete as a tennis player and softball player. Poe was also second in conference singles last season.

“One of the positive aspects about her is that she is a good returner,” Davis said. “Where you think you’ve won the point, she can run it down and send it back. She’s tenacious, and she doesn’t back down.”

The Badger tennis team has a no-cut policy, which makes for an unusually large squad of close to 50 players. Beebe has become a big town for tennis on the high-school and community levels, a fact Davis credits to his predecessor, longtime tennis coach Carla Choate.

“She held little kids clinics for several years, and that got a lot of people involved,” Davis said. “The kids start playing, and that also got a lot of parents playing, because it’s something the family can do as an activity.”

This is the first year for Davis as head coach, but he has been active with the tennis team at Beebe for several years, starting as a volunteer under Choate.

Beebe will begin the season on Tuesday, Aug. 28 with a match at Cabot, and will start 5A East play two days later at Wynne. Davis said Nettleton is traditionally Beebe’s biggest league rival, though it is a friendly rivalry.

“The only bad thing is, they’re such nice people, you can’t get angry at them,” Davis said of Nettleton. “The kids and the parents, they’re all really great. It might be better if you could get mad at them, but it’s just not possible.”