Each year, the tennis team at William James Middle School gets a little bit faster, a little stronger and more confident. This season was no different.
The tennis program started just three years ago, but already the team has enjoyed early success, culminating in a region championship for the girls team. The first ever in school history.
Brian Hall, WJMS tennis head coach, said he’s proud of the way his team has played over the years and admires the way his players carry themselves on and off the court.
Hall, who has been at the helm of the Knights tennis program since the beginning, said the number of players trying out for the program continues to grow.
“They just never had a tennis program. I think they just never had someone that wanted to coach,” said Hall, who had experience coaching tennis at the high school level in Metter. “(Our players) are super coachable and they want to get better and they listen. It’s a fun game and they enjoy it.”
In the region championship, the girls had to go through Richmond Hill and it wouldn’t be easy. The way in which the Knights won was something out of a Hollywood movie script.
Isabella Nobles and Abby Welch started the match with an 8-1 win in doubles competition. Nobles and Welch finished the year on a 12-match win streak. Bailee Roberts and Jill Jameson won in an 8-2 victory to lead the Knights to a 2-0 overall advantage.
Despite a solid outing from Jada Scott and Addison Taylor, the pair lost in the No. 1 and No. 3 singles match. With the match tied 2-2, the championship would come down to No. 2 singles player Catherine Morgan Akins.
Akins started the match down 0-3, but fought back to trail 4-5.
Between crossover, Coach Hall had a memorable conversation with his player.
“She asked what the match score was. When I told her it was all tied up, she looked at me and said, ‘I got this.’ She lost the next game to down 4-6,” Hall recalled.
But Hall didn’t have to worry. Akins made good on her promise.
She rallied to win five of the last six matches to win 9-7 and give the Lady Knights a region championship.
“It was so intense,” Hall said. “It was loud every single point. It was great to see our girls and guys come together. We’re really one big team.”
The boys tennis team finished the season with a close loss to South Effingham in the semi-finals. Bryce Costlow and Janard Mike won 8-0 to remain undefeated on the season. Jackson Proctor was winning his match but the match was called.
Candler Jordan and Mikal Mascarello in singles and Harrison Cork along with Garrison Littles lost in close matches. The boys squad had their best season in school history.
“I’m just really proud of them. They had great integrity and our kids just showed great class and sportsmanship. They’re just a great group of kids,” Hall said.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.