Coach believes Lady Cardinal tennis has bright future

South Laurel's Allie Mitchell was able to pull out a No. 6 seed going into the regional tournament this year, which Coach Makenzie Jones said made Mitchell the first South Laurel player to obtain a seed since Neha Rao, who graduated a few years ago. | File Photo 

SOUTH LAUREL — South Laurel Girls Tennis Coach Makenzie Jones believes that while a winning season can certainly be called a successful one, she’s only hoping to continue seeing her players get better and more confident on and off the court.

“With our first match against North, we played at home and got a good victory on the girls side,” she said. “When we played them a couple weeks later at North, they slid past us and got the win. It feels good to be able to split the win with a crosstown rival team, and also one that has a very even playing field as us.”

South Laurel’s Allie Mitchell was able to pull out a No. 6 seed going into the regional tournament this year, which Jones said made Mitchell the first South Laurel player to obtain a seed since Neha Rao, who graduated a few years ago.

With this being Jones’ second year as head coach, she felt more comfortable going into this season after having a chance to build relationships with her Lady Cardinals.

“Building relationships with the players and understanding how they play, learning how they need coached is a vital part in communicating with these kids,” she said.

Melina Durham was the lone senior on the team this season.

“She has been playing tennis for quite a while, including private lessons year round,” Jones said. “Melina is a very outstanding student who is involved in many extracurricular activities throughout the year, such as private Spanish lessons and piano, many AP classes, just to tip the iceberg of things she has to juggle but still manages to put her all into each activity. She always went on to the court and came off with a smile, regardless of the outcome. She is a class act and always so friendly. She is going to be greatly missed in the South Laurel tennis program.”

With the loss of only one player and the return of No. 1 and 2 seeds, Allie Mitchell and Sadie Durant, Jones believes the future of the South Laurel girls tennis team is looking very bright.

“I am very excited about this upcoming group of girls I will have for the next season,” she said. “Kenna Kemper, Lacey Martin, Jordyn Bailey and Lilly Hoskins will again be on the varsity roster. For Kenna, there is a major difference in a three and four seed, and that is something I hope to work with her on this offseason. Lacey was a freshman this year and had a great first season. She is such a powerful hitter and with some more lessons, she will see much improvement. This season, I had paired Lilly Hoskins with new player Shelbi Brock for a doubles team. Brock used to be on the soccer team and is a natural athlete. I am excited to see her grow this next year as a player.”

Jones is also expecting to see a lot more out of some of her players next season, including Abby Jones, Macie Finley and Jordyn Bailey now that they all have some experience under their belts.

After wrapping up her second season as head coach, Jones is just hoping to continue seeing her players grow.

“Next season I would obviously love to see some more wins, as would any coach,” she said. “But most of all, I want to see personal growth within these kids. I want to see them become more confident in their tennis game as they continue to improve their skill level as well.

“With two seasons officially under my belt, I still can’t express how much I love being able to coach a sport that I love to play at a school where I used to play myself. I am a product of South Laurel and the ‘family’ mentality definitely goes a long way with us. We are a small team, very close knit, and become our own family during our short three-month season. I hope I have taught these kids a little bit about tennis, but a whole lot more about life, because they are surely teaching me.”

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