Rebuilding job begins for Polk County tennis program

Richard Davis stood next to Polk County’s gleaming tennis courts Wednesday and intently watched the Wolverines’ girls team practice.

The view was one, a few days ago, Davis wasn’t certain he’d see this fall.

On the first day of practice in early August, two team members greeted Davis. Since that time, he and athletic director Jeff Wilson have been working to find more players in the student body, looking to get at least the minimum four players required for a competitive team.

On Wednesday, five players took to the still-looking-new Polk County courts installed last fall. Davis is hoping that others may follow as he works to build not only this year’s team, but also the program’s future.

“I saw this coming two or three years ago,” Davis said. “We were loaded with juniors and seniors, but as they graduated, there were no freshmen coming behind them. I just kept hoping somewhere along the way, somebody else would show up.

“When we started practice, we had two people here. That was very scary. Coach Wilson and I have both worked hard to field a team. We didn’t want to say, ‘well, that’s it, no team this year,’ especially with these nice courts out here. Today is the first day that I’ve had five girls on the court.”

Senior Alivia Livesay is the only returning player from last season’s team and should be one of the top players in the Western Highlands Conference. Davis has high expectations for Livesay, expecting her to reach the 2A regional tourney and possibly make a bid for a state tournament trip. Beyond Livesay, though, Davis’ focus is on rebuilding the Wolverine program.

“I’ve told all the girls that I’ve talked to that there will be no pressure on them this year,” Davis said. “Alivia will put pressure on herself because she expects to win. She’s a very good player who also takes lessons and works a lot on her game. Hopefully, she’s going to have a very good year.

“But as for the rest of the team, there’s no pressure to win. The only pressure is learning how to play. With many of them being freshmen and sophomores, the sky’s the limit for them as far as how much they want to work at this. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll be competitive again.”

Though Davis’ team remains in flux, Destinee Schlabach, Rhian Alley and Shannon Collins are expected to join Livesay on the roster.

The Wolverines will begin play on Thursday, Sept. 4, hosting Avery County in a Western Highlands Conference match slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.

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