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Panthers want to improve from ’09

Jemison on Thursday will be making its seventh consecutive appearance in the Class 4A boys tennis state tournament, so the berth alone isn’t enough to please coach Benton Morton anymore.

“There’s no pressure, but I’m expecting them to do better than we did last year,” Morton said about a squad that finished last out of 10 teams in the event.

There’s a good chance the Panthers will improve on that performance because a couple of players have earned No. 1 seeds in the tournament—and the byes that go along with that distinction—and the team is better conditioned as a whole.

Andrew Morton and Jake Long enter the tournament at Lagoon Park Tennis Center in Montgomery as the No. 1 seeds at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles positions, respectively.

Morton and Long also form the top-seeded No. 3 doubles team.

Long—like teammates William Morton, Drew Posey and Cole Thompson—has state tournament experience.

Andrew Morton was forced to sit out of the state tournament last season with an injury, so he joins Brandon Jones, Jordan Jones and Taylor Long as first-timers.

Thompson is the team’s only senior, so the Panthers should continue to be a fixture at state.

Because of their seeding, Andrew Morton and Jake Long will receive first-round byes in the tournament, important because postseason tennis uses a best-of-three-set format, which can draw out longer than the 10-point pro sets used in the regular season.

The different format, combined with the fact that a player could conceivably compete in four matches in two days, makes conditioning especially important, and coach Morton said he’s placed a greater emphasis on running this season.

“Conditioning was good this year,” Morton said. “You can see a difference [with the different set format], especially when you get to the finals.”

Jemison competes in the tournament on Friday and Saturday.