Audrey Bradford returns the ball while paired with her sister Allison at practice on August 16 at the Mt. Zion Tennis Fields.
By Blake Faith
Mt. Zion girls tennis head coach Mike Roberts is returning his top-four players and in all of their minds one goal is similar. That is to get players qualified for the state tournament.
Coach Roberts and his team are excited about the upcoming season. This year the season will not end at sectionals and as of now there will be a State Tournament.
Coach Roberts said that his top-4 all had good showings in last year’s sectionals. He believes that they have worked hard and are really excited for the season to start.
During the off-season, Coach Roberts and his team focused on competing and pushing each other on the team.
You know, when you have a group that are all about the same level, it’s hard,” Coach Roberts said. “When you have one that is so much better than the others that is also hard. But when you have a group that are willing to push each other and get better together you can get a nice group of four to six girls that are a lot better. And that’s what they’ve done. They’ve just pushed themselves in their game and it is just really showing in all aspects.”
Four players were interviewed for this article. Senior Alexis Mallory was one of them. Her goals for this season are to win more singles matches. In terms of leadership, she is known as a competitor, but wants to set the example that it is just a game and even she struggles with that.
Junior Allison Bradford was one match away from qualifying for a state tournament last year in sectionals. This year her goal is to get back to where she was and advance to the state tournament. In terms of leadership, Allison Bradford wants to show sportsmanship and help the underclassman learn how to play tennis.
“I would like to include definitely the underclassmen in learning how to play tennis, how to become better players on and then also just being good people off the court,” Allison Bradford said. “ So sportsmanship, and definitely being a good player towards other teams because we see them all season. We see the same girls through the whole year. So definitely having a good reputation as a team.”
Junior Audrey Bradford wants to make it to state for the first time and win at the Apollo Conference in Singles. Her leadership goals are to transfer what she’s done at Tribe ( a freshman mentoring program at Mt. Zion schools) and implement that into the tennis team to make other players comfortable with asking questions and help them know that they’re on a team with great people.
Junior Kayla Schnippel’s goals are to make herself better this year and prepare for her senior year. Schnippel wants to set the example of working hard in school and that you can achieve managing school and extracurricular activities.
Coach Roberts expects these girls to be leaders of the team. Tennis is an individual sport on the court, but Coach Roberts expects there to be a tie to become team focused off the court.
“I look to my upperclassmen to make that tie to bring in and get everybody involved and to show, it’s almost like golf,” Coach Roberts said. “It’s hard to show team spirit in golf. And so that’s what I look to them for. They’re the ones that bring in and make those freshmen and sophomores, the girls that are on the JV team, make them feel part of the team, and that we’re kind of all together.”
Coach Roberts goals for his team are to win the Apollo Conference and get some players into the State Tournament. The last time the girls tennis team won the Apollo Conference was around 2017.
“I think we have a shot at that this year,” Coach Roberts said. “But it’s something nobody’s going to give it to you. You have to work towards it. And you have to earn it.”
Coach Roberts wanted to send an overall message to readers and the community that this team is a great team, they’re fun to watch and come out and see them. Their first home match was August 24th against Casey-Westerfield. Their second home match will be on August 26th against Charleston.