Tigers tackle team challenge

TYE CHANDLER sports@theglenrosereporter.com
Grace Morris

With the district tournament looming, adversity is helpful to Tiger tennis in its preparation.

Glen Rose found plenty of that at the Robinson Team Challenge March 28. Brownwood and Temple were also in the mix. While the Tigers found some success against Temple, they managed a lone win going up against Robinson and Brownwood.

"I think this was a great experience," said coach Gregger Yeager. "We played the exact same (scoring) format we'll play at district, and I think the kids are seeing that means longer and harder matches. We were the only 3A school there with two 4As and a 5A, so it was very tough competition for us. Most of our kids stepped up to the challenge, competed and a lot of them got at least one win out of the day.

"Now, I think they're more aware of what it takes to win in this style of match. Robinson has a great program, and like Brownwood they start tennis in junior high. Both teams were very tough."

In boys' doubles, the tandem of Ethan Krueger and Alex Cocita earned a 7-6(7-2) and 6-1 win over Temple.

"As we go further in the year, Ethan has become more and more impressive," Yeager said. "He's definitely one of our best varsity players now. He's tightened up his serve, his forehands are much better and he moves a lot better now.

"It's helping Alex out a lot. Alex is still learning the doubles game, but he knows it means taking more risks and he's looking more comfortable."

In girls' doubles, Madison Morrow and Kimberlee McCullough defeated Temple 6-2 and 6-2.

"That's a big win for those two," Yeager said. "They are tall players who love playing the net, while neither of them feel real confident playing in the backcourt. They covered the net so well against Temple that it gave them a clear advantage in that match."

In mixed doubles, Derek Kramer and Sophie Bozarth defeated Brownwood 6-2, 4-6 and 6-4. They also bested Temple 6-2, 2-6 and 6-3. They lost their first match of the season against Robinson.

"Those two are looking a lot better at this point," Yeager said. "They're fierce competitors and two of our best players. Sophie's service game was great all day.

"Derek's serve wasn't as consistent, but he understands the game so well. Sophie is pure athleticism and determination to win."

Also in mixed doubles, Austin Mullins and Grace Morris defeated Temple 6-4 and 6-1.

"That's a quality win over Temple, but Austin and Grace were also the only players of ours to push a Robinson opponent to a third set," the coach said. "Seeing them fight in that matchup was great. Grace has really started to look comfortable at the net after her transition to doubles. Austin is a solid all-around player.

"His backhand is his only weakness, but Grace is able to cover that for him most of the time. There's a lot of hope in the future for those two sophomores."

In girls' singles, Grace Payne defeated Temple 6-4 and 7-5.

"Grace is a smart, talented player who is going to give it everything she has," Yeager said. "She was competitive throughout the day because she never gives in. She's a terrific player to coach."

Tiger tennis has one more tourney before district - the Nick Conte Classic in Glen Rose April 2 at noon.

"The kids should be comfortable getting back on their home court, and I think it should be a good confidence boost for a lot of our players going into district," Yeager said.