Rappahannock’s Amanda Fallin squares off against Mathews during their second meeting of the season.
Coaches Corbin Franklin and Jackie Morris sent a doubles team to represent Rappahannock in the Group A State Girls Tennis Team Tournament. But with their top player back in the lineup and off to a 3-1 after dropping the defending Region A champion Mathews.
“I think the team worked really hard at practice over the last week and was ready for the rematch against Mathews. Playing on our home courts with our fans cheering is also an advantage,” said Franklin.
The two have split the season with one win each. In the first, Mathews defeated 3-6 and Rappahannock won last week 5-4. Both teams have proven in the past three years to be consistent competitors in the past year as their winning records and trips to the postseason have shown.
“They are a tough team with many returning players and the girls have gotten to know each other’s players styles over the year. Since the girls know their opponents’ playing style it’s important for them to stay mentally tough and not let every point get to them,” Franklin said. “Each team and its members gets better every year and it’s always a toss-up as to who will be the overall region winner in singles, doubles, and the team competition.”
Last season, Mathews spoiled Rappahannock’s chances to advance as a team to the state tournament. This comes after Rappahannock did the same to them a year before.
One of Rappahannock’s key returners includes Megan Knight, who comes back this season as the team’s top player. The defending region doubles champions made up of Abby and Lori will join her to help lead the team. The two were put together following the ankle injury of Knight.
“We decided to keep Abby & Lori as the number one doubles team because they had experience playing and winning against Mathews in the regional semi-finals last year,” Franklin said. “They also won against Appomattox Governor’s School at the regional finals and played in the state semi-finals at Radford.”
Rounding out the top six includes Amanda Fallin, Emily Gay and Rex Jones.
“Our top six has really put in a lot of effort this year to step up their game,” Franklin said.
Franklin said she hopes to bring forward Taylor Yeatman and April Gutman up next year following the graduation of some seniors. Both walked away with wins in singles against St. Margaret’s.
“Kristen Childs, Hannah Barton, and newcomer Lindsey Delano are also working hard to advance into our top six for next year,” Franklin said, adding that eighth graders Connor Pemberton, Katelin Brann, Hannah Pulliam and Elisa Morgan round out the team.
2006 Rappahannock graduate Holly Jones also joins the mix as an assistant coach. She is an eighth grade science teacher at the Intermediate School after graduating from Christopher Newport University.
“When I played for RHS, our coach was very inexperienced in tennis. I think now that we have a better coaching staff overall, the tennis program has really taken off since I played,” said Jones. “We focus a lot on drills to improve techniques and conditioning so that the girls have the endurance they need to play matches that might last an hour or more.”
To start the season, Rappahannock has defeated St. Margaret’s twice 9-0 and 7-2.