Thriving on determination

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By John Herndon

There are times when pupil actually does know more than teacher.

Anderson County girls' tennis coach Catina Sims admits that was the case with the Lady Bearcats last year. "I learned a lot by just watching the kids," Sims admits with a smile. "The girls helped each other a lot and they helped me."

But Sims, and her team, learned together and became competitive as the year went on. By regional tournament time, top singles player Mary Ellen Stratton had improved enough to advance in post-season play.

Now, Sims, a former hurdler at Casey County High School, has a much stronger knowledge of the game and feels her team can be improved over a year ago.

"I wanted to get involved," Sims says of taking the job just prior to last season's first practice. "When the position came open, I wanted to be able to help the girls."

A year of study, learning and observing could show dividends this season. "Once I learned the mechanics of the game, I can show them now," she says.

Sims has 16 girls to work with in a sport that has grown very competitive at the high school level. Anderson however, resides in a region that is mainly comprised of schools of similar demographics. With the exception of three schools in Oldham County, most of the regional foes are schools with limited tennis facilities and without easy access to the tennis facilities in the urban areas.

A year ago, Stratton advanced as a singles player but has been moved to doubles for her senior season. "She has played doubles before," Sims said. "She has a good all-around game."

Sims says the decision to pair Stratton with fellow senior Olivia Woodrum, who took last year off, at the top doubles spot was made with the post-season in mind. "I see a lot of potential for these two girls," Sims says.

That Stratton made the rare switch from singles to doubles reflects the idea that in regional competition both players have a better shot at a long post-season run and a possible berth in the state tournament in the doubles side of the game.

"In our region, most of the stars are in singles," Sims noted. That includes last year's regional champion and state runner-up, Lauren Kline of North Oldham.

Stratton and Woodrum work well together and have the potential to make one of the longest tournament runs of any Anderson girls' players in many years.

However, Sims says the entire Anderson team is much improved over last year.

"We had six or seven girls that played as much as possible and at least nine played some in the off-season."

Early in the season, Sims says the rest of the spots on the team are up in the air.

"We lost two seniors, Winnie Moore and Kelly Fuqua," she said. "Kelly is playing tennis at Thomas More College. "We also lost 3 foreign exchange students. Three other players decided not to come back this year."

Seniors Jennifer Hoskins and Valerie Gibbs are expected to be among the top singles' players.

Sims is also counting on Anne-Marie Detherage, who Sims says is, "Very athletic and getting better all the time. She has improved by leaps and bounds."

Currently, senior Lara Wheeler and junior Mariah Hurt are playing the no. 2 doubles team.

While Sims says the ultimate goal is to improve and develop the girls' games, she admits that competition means that wins are important. "The girls get frustrated if they don't win," she noted.

While Anderson feels that its top doubles team has a chance to make some regional noise, the fact remains that the Oldham County schools, especially North and South Oldham, are established tennis powerhouses.

Franklin County and Western Hills are also solid net programs.

The reason is facilities. Anderson County - the county, not the school - has just four tennis courts, all located at the high school.

While that might allow Anderson to be competitive with some of the regional schools, it is a situation that routinely puts the program at a competitive disadvantage as practice time becomes a factor in the season and simply playing the game is one in the off-season.

"We had 5 practices before our first match," Sims said.

"We need to be out on the courts if we can. It wasn't just us, though. Part of it was the weather, so everyone had to deal with that, but some of the teams have a major advantage.

They can go to Louisville to practice on the indoor courts.

"I hate to think (the lack of facilities) is one of the factors but it is."

Still, Sims hopes to carry some of the lessons she learned in track and field and as academic team coach over to the tennis court.

She believes the wins and losses have to be taken as learning experiences.

"You have to keep working and you can't let one defeat stop you," Sims says. "I was not the most athletic person in the world but I was a darned determined one.

"I would love to see some of our girls qualify for the state, but the main thing is to do your best and work on your game."