On the surface, you wouldn’t think there’s a boot camp mentality in tennis. Certainly coach Lennie Corbett doesn’t employ that mindset with his Cedar Ridge girls tennis team.
But the preparation for today’s season opener against Eastern Alamance has been two very grueling weeks. Since gathering on August 1st, the Red Wolves have gathered five times a week for four hour practice sessions with temperatures climbing above 95 degrees during three practices last week.
Corbett watched Thursday’s session with two towels trapped under a baseball cap.
“We’ve been out for long hours,” said Corbett.
The early schedule won’t be any easier. Three matches are set for this week, including Eastern Alamance today and the North Carolina School for the Arts on Wednesday. On Thursday, they face Riverside.
“We’re much, much stronger this year than last year,” said Corbett. “With the newcomers like Alana Soures and Olivia Ward, I’m not sure who is going to be playing where, aside from the top two singles.”
This year, all-Big 8 performer Tess Johnson returns after a busy summer. She spent five-and-a-half week in Governor’s School at Meredith College, where she focused on match. Upon returning July 27th, she quickly worked to get back into tennis shape. She’s expected to be the top singles player after making the 2nd round of regionals in 2015.
“I think we’re going to be really good,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of really good players. We have some freshmen and sophomores who have practiced well. I’m excited to see what we’ll do this year.”
“She’s a fighter,” said Corbett. “She’s steady. She’s not going to make a lot of mistakes and she never quits. I wish I could get everyone like her.”
Another all Big 8 performer, Kate Milner, returns for the Red Wolves. So does Leah Thompson (who qualified for regionals as a doubles player with Maddie Allen, who graduated) and Senera Soures.
Among the arrivals for CRHS is a rare commodity: a freshman starter who played in middle school. Since Stanford and Stanback don’t field tennis teams, usually Orange and Cedar Ridge don’t start underclassmen. However, Corbett says Ward will likely start at #2 singles after playing at Gravelly Hill in Efland.
“She’s a good player,” said Corbett. “She’s played a lot of tournament over the last few years. None of our middle schools have teams, so this is rare. Most of the kids play at the clubs.”
The Red Wolves made the 3A state dual playoffs last season, but Corbett thinks this squad could be better, even when faced against the challenge of perennial power Chapel Hill in the Big 8 Conference.
“I welcome the challenge,” said Corbett. “I’m looking for big things from these girls this year.”