Lady Buffs must fight to continue good tradition

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   The Milligan College women's tennis team is traditionally near the top of the Appalachian Athletic Conference year in and year out, but Lady Buffs coach Marvin Glover says it's going to take some surprises and hard work to keep that going in 2003.
   "We can contend for a title," Glover said this week, as the men's and women's tennis teams get ready to start their seasons.
   While Glover remains very optimistic, that optimism is one filled with caution.
   "This will have to be a blue-collar team, though," he said. "Whatever we get, we'll have to work very hard for. The victories we have over tough teams we will have earned. We won't be able to win by just talent alone. We'll have to upset some people.
   "But I wouldn't discount them. They have worked hard. They've prepared hard, they've conditioned hard, and once you get on the court, who knows what might happen."
   Glover seems to be really excited about his young players, particularly Chassie Lamison from Indiana.
   Glover says she is probably his best overall player.
   "Her all-around game is very strong," Glover said. "She serves well, and her groundstrokes are solid from both sides. She has nice volley techniques, and she's a very aggressive player. She will win a lot of matches for us."
   Lamison will be joined at the top of the lineup by her sister, sophomore Sheri Lamison.
   "She really improved as the year went along last year, and will contribute solidly for us this year," Glover said.
   Another sophomore that continues to improve is Jessica Conn, who made the finals of her flight at the AAC Tournament last season.
   "She likes to hit the ball hard," Glover said. "Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad. She's primarily a baseliner, and she can win points from the baseline. She's working hard on her net game as well, and as that improves, she'll become an even more dangerous player."
   Former Elizabethton High standout Sara Wallingford has raised her game to another level in college, and is capable of pulling off upsets over top players.
   "She's continuing to get better each year," Glover said. "She has a powerful game. She has a big serve. She has big groundstrokes. As she gets a little more confidence off of both sides on her forehand and her backhand, she's capable of surprising anybody she walks out on the court with.
   "There are times that Sara is practically unbeatable. It's just a matter of her being consistent."
   Hannah Henderson, Lauren Dowdy and Amy Vincent will give Milligan some depth.
   We'll find out just how good the Lady Buffs are when they host last year's conference champion, Virginia Intermont, for their AAC opener on March 6.
   "I expect them to be the team to beat," Glover said. "Talent-wise they're probably on paper the favorites, and rightfully so. Until somebody shows that they can hang with them and challenge them, then they deserve exactly what they get."
   As for the men, the Buffs' top two returning players from last year are not on the team this season, but Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey remains confident that his squad will be just fine.
   "I'm very pleased with where our returning players are," he said.
   Milligan's new No. 1 this season will be Patrick Mitchell, who performed very admirably in the No. 3 spot a year ago.
   "He's always had a big serve, but he's probably added five miles-an-hour to that serve by working hard in the weight room and getting stronger," Aubrey said. "I think Patrick is going to have a very solid year."
   Another player that didn't play very high last year, but has improved tremendously is Matt Emmert.
   "Matt played No. 5 last year and could play as high as three," Aubrey said. "Matt had a very good summer, played a lot of tennis, and I think he made himself a better player by what he did in the off-season."
   Senior leadership will be delivered by Joe Westerman, who is the team captain.
   "Joe's had a very good off-season," Aubrey said. "Joe's coming in very excited about the prospects for this year."
   Brock Houston also returns to the team after a one-year absence. Houston will really be valuable in doubles.
   Aubrey says Joe Dyer is the one freshman on the team that should crack the lineup when the season starts up.
   As far as the league goes, Aubrey says Virginia Intermont and King are the teams to gun for.