Jemison girls learning the ropes

Published 8:44 pm Thursday, March 5, 2009

The 2009 Jemison girls tennis team isn’t exactly what coach Benton Morton is used to.

First, only two players are back from last year’s team. Junior Ashley Gothard and senior Ashley Garrett are in their fourth year of competition and are the team’s top two players and No. 1 doubles team.

After the Ashley G.’s, however, the Panthers are mighty green. None of the other six players have ever played varsity level tennis.

That is another reason this group is so different for Morton, who is used to girls teams that regularly compete for a berth in the state tournament. The Panthers are 1-2 after a 9-0 loss to unbeaten Thompson yesterday.

But Morton said the situation is much better than it could have been because there was doubt the school would even be able to field a team. It took the help of two juniors, Tara Foster and Jessica Swindle, and three seniors, Alyssa Childress, Jonica Hicks and Christie Hoffmeyer, to keep the team alive.

And despite their inexperience, Morton said the Panthers have improved. Hoffmeyer, for example, was bumped up to the No. 2 slot yesterday because Gothard was unable to play, and Hoffmeyer bothered Thompson’s No. 2 player in a surprisingly close loss.

Morton said he’s not worried about any long term effects associated with the Panthers losing to a team like Thompson.

“It shows them what they can become,” he said. “It makes them hungry.”