A year ago, Richard Davis spent more time in the early days of Polk County’s preseason tennis schedule off the court than on, simply trying to round up enough players to field a team.
Put together a roster, he finally did. And while senior Alivia Livesay captured the Western Highlands Conference singles title and qualified for the state 2A tournament, most of the remaining Wolverines were simply learning the game throughout the season.
Livesay is now gone, having taking her talents to Ohio’s Wittenberg College. But most of her teammates have returned, giving Davis not only a full roster, but an outlook full of optimism heading into Tuesday’s home and season opener with Enka (3:45 p.m.).
“I am delighted to have eight players. Who knows, when school starts maybe we’ll have some others straggle in,” Davis said. “Eight is a good number.
“All the girls are basically returners from last year, and while they were green at the beginning of the year, they developed into decent tennis players. Everybody is hitting ball over the net and a couple of the girls have improved dramatically.”
What Polk County doesn’t have, at least not yet, is a true No. 1 player, a singles talent along the lines of Livesay. Many Polk opponents, including conference foes, will often have one or two top players who train privately, and Davis said the Wolverines may struggle against those players this season.
But once past those top players, Davis expects Polk to compete, and compete well.
“We don’t tail off once you get past one and two,” Davis said. “I’m not saying we’re the best ever, but we’ve got a good core. It’s really exciting knowing we’ve got a fighting chance this year against some teams, and then we’ll have everybody back again next year.
“It’s just exciting to have a good team. I told the girls I’ve got a renewed enthusiasm about this team.”
Juniors Rhian Alley, Shannon Collins and Alicia Twitty are part of a group of returnees that also includes sophomores Bella Marino and Trinity Branham. Two freshmen – Juniper Walter-Eger and Reese Alley – and sophomores Haven Dufford comprise the rest of the team.
The Wolverines open the season with three straight home matches, then are away for a week before beginning conference play on Sept. 3, hosting Avery.