Tennis coaches believe good things ahead for SHS program
The five members of the Starkville High School tennis team that qualified for the state tournament standing with assistant coach Rob Fyke, left, and head coach Anna Albritton, right, are Clark Pittman, from left, Hannah Laird, Emily Turner, Andrew Moorhead and Kyler Rendon. The state tournament is begins today at the Bridges Tennis Center in Jackson. (Submitted photo)
The coaches of the Starkville High School tennis team believe the program is on the verge of some special things in the not so distant future.
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All head coach Anna Albritton and assistant coach Rob Fyke need as an example was last week's match against Madison Central in the first round of the state team championships.
Fyke, who does all of the on-the-court teaching for the Yellowjackets, was encouraged by the way the squad competed against very strong Madison Central.
"I was thought (before the match) that we had a small percentage chance of winning the match, but as the match went on, we realized that we had a chance of winning it," Fyke said. "We lost the third set tie-breaker in No. 2 boys double and No. 2 girls doubles didn't play their best match, but if they had played, they would have had a chance to win.
"Madison Central may be the team that ends up winning the state championship and we were right there with them. We didn't win, but were with them."
The individual state championship begins today at the Bridges Tennis Center in Jackson and Starkville has several players qualified for the event.
Emily Turner competes in girls singles, while Kyler Rendon and Andrew Moorhead participate in boys doubles, and Clark Pittman and Hannah Laird play mixed doubles.
Pittman enjoys being part of a group that appears to be establishing something positive with a racket in hand.
"The seed got planted last year when we made it to the team championships and I definitely see some good things going on," Pittman said.
Fyke knows the competition will be tough at state. He sees Turner having a chance to do well, but is paired in a tough girls singles bracket and will have to win three tough matches to reach her goal. Pittman and Laird are seeded fourth in mixed doubles, but their task will be difficult also.
Even though Rendon and Moorhead didn't get a high seed, Fyke knows a break here or there and they could advance.
In Fyke's mind, just being able to play on that stage is something he knows will benefit the players in the long run.
"We've got five that will be able to experience it," Fyke said. "I wish we have seven or nine or the whole team, but we have five and three of them are going to come back next year and will know what to expect from the previous year."
Albritton, who is in charge of the administrative end of the team, said bringing Fyke on board was just what the doctor ordered for SHS tennis. Fyke was previously the head tennis coach in Clinton and moved to Starkville with his wife.
"It's been great with him," Albritton said. "Basically, we talked with him back in the summer about coming out and being a part of the program. I told him that I wanted him to do everything on the court. That's what his expertise is so this year in every practice he's had some drills going on, he's paired the kids up and it's been good. It's the medication we needed for this program."