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There is optimism for this year’s Anderson County girls’ tennis program.
It is a cautious optimism but the Lady Bearcats feel they could make fans turn their heads when Anderson County is mentioned.
“I expect a winning season again this year and I expect to see the team’s performance improve as the season progresses and our new players get more playing time,” says Lady Cat coach Catina Sims.
Anderson experienced some key graduation losses, including Mary Ellen Stratton, Jennifer Hoskins, Olivia Woodrum and Valerie Gibbs, but the cupboard is far from empty. “We have two top players stpping in with Kristen Hamrick and Anne-Marie Detherage. We also have great players in Jessica Damron, Shelby Jessee, Mariah Hurt and Taylor Goodlett,” Sims says.
The Lady Bearcats have opened their season splitting their first four matches. Anderson defeated Frankfort and Gallatin County but lost to regional powers Oldham County and Shelby County. The improvement was evident.
Anderson swept Gallatin and won all but one match against Frankfort, but a sign of Anderson’s improvement might have come in the loss to Oldham when two of the five matches went to a third set. Oldham’s Kamber Heil outlasted Hamrick 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 1 singles and Anderson’s No. 2 doubles team of Ashley Whattenbarger and Chelsea Lane extended Oldham’s Paxton Roberts and Jessica Caswell before falling 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
“Many of my returning varsity members went to camps and played in tournaments in the off-season, which has helped keep their games sharp,” Sims says. “We also have gotten a lot more practice time in this year early in the season and that will help us both on the varsity and on the (junior varsity) side.”
Anderson is banking on numbers and enthusiasm to overcome the perception of tennis as an afterthought in the community. The school has never had a girls’ regional champion and has had relatively few players make big splashes, even regionally. Serious players in the community must go to Frankfort, Lexington or Louisville for good competition.
The only courts in the county are located at the high school, yet Sims says that has not dampened the enthusiasm for the sport. “We have 21 girls on the team, which, considering our lack of courts in the county, is huge,” she says. “We have one of the largest programs in our region. It’s a real shame we don’t have more facilities available in the county to accommodate this rapidly growing team.”
As the season is now two weeks old, it is difficult to tell just how good Anderson can be. Friday, against Trimble County, Hamrick and Deterage were playing very strong early. Yet there are some question marks about depth and experience.
“This team is still young and improving daily,” Sims says. “I have some great athletes here and some that just love to play. You need both to make a great team and we have that.”
Whether that translates into a long post-season run remains to be seen. The region is strong at the top with defending state singles champion Lauren Kline at North Oldham and Shelby’s Kayla Pilcher still around. Heil is also a threat.
“I don’t want to make any predictions about the regional or state,” Sims says. “It it too early in the season to make that call, but let’s say that I have high hopes for our performance this year.”
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.