Thursday, August 14, 2014
The Berkeley Lady Stags tennis team put together an impressive run during the middle portion of the 2013 season, a winning streak that nearly brought them a Region 8AAA championship and a Class AAA Lower State Championship.
After losing out to eventual state champion North Myrtle Beach in the 2013 LS Finals, the Lady Stags have spent the off-season building on last year’s success, and with 38 girls coming out for this year’s edition, including 23 returning players from 2013, Berkeley has their sights set on a return to the Lower State Finals, and then some.
With so many players vying for the four singles and two doubles slots on the Lady Stags varsity squad, Coach Joe Harnage has had to stagger practice times so as to provide the 38 players ample court time.
Harnage isn’t complaining though. No coach can ever have too many players.
“With this many girls, we will offset the start time so we will not have everybody here for the entire practice,” he said. “Eventually we will have almost two separate practices that will start two hours apart.”
The two top returning singles players from last year’s Lower State runner up are Elliott Huxford and Carmen Tedder. With 23 returning players from 2013, Harnage has enjoyed watching some competition on the tennis courts this summer.
“Last year’s success has really driven the team to work hard to keep getting better,” he said. “We have as many as sixteen girls who could wind up as one of the top five singles positions.”
His team’s hard work and dedication over the summer months has not gone unnoticed.
“I have never been around a team that has had this many girls work so hard over the summer,” Harnage said. “The close proximity of the track and the use of the baseball batting cages have been invaluable this year.”
A good problem facing Harnage is the influx of younger talent flooding the Lady Stags’ court to mount a challenge for match play.
“We will have thirteen girls from the middle school this year. However the lineup turns out, we will have a much, more balanced team this year. We will not have a big gap in ability between our number one singles position and the girls playing number two doubles.”
First serve on the 2014 season is set for Aug. 26 on the road against Ashley Ridge.
Harnage said his team will have to get their game legs under them quickly.
“They will have a strong team and this match will help us see how well we did preparing the girls for the start the season.”
Harnage also announced that the Lady Stags will field a full JV match schedule that will also begin on Aug. 26.
“We started an inter-squad league called the Stag League last year and that will begin next week. We will create four teams out of the players ranked below the top eight. They will play matches weekly. The league gives the new players lots of match experience so they can be prepared when they play other schools.”
Top returning singles player Elliott Huxford has been impressed with the dedication shown by her teammates over the summer and knows hard work will be critical if the Lady Stags hope for a return trip to the Lower State Finals.
“Our repeat in the Lower State Championship match will depend on our successes in getting our younger players to perform in matches as they perform in practice,” she said. “Getting over the nervousness will be a challenge especially in the early part of the season. From the effort and attitudes I have seen so far, the upcoming season should be successful.”
Lady Stags tennis fans will find out in less than a week.