EHS program in line for resurgence

By Matt Hill

   Things in the Elizabethton High tennis program are like what little brother usually has to do to a big brother. Needless to say, things are looking up.
   The Cyclones are now in a new conference, and the stock of the tennis program seems to be on the rise.
   This will be Elizabethton's first year in the Watauga, meaning the Cyclones will no longer have to play dominating teams like Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett.
   New EHS tennis coach Danny O' Quinn believes it will be a very competitive team.
   "It will definitely give us an advantage," O' Quinn said. "Instead of playing for fourth or fifth, now we should be able to play for the top spot."
   A girl that should give O' Quinn plenty to smile about this season is freshman Amanda Pike.
   Pike has been very successful in summer junior tournaments the last couple of years, and O' Quinn is very excited to have her on board.
   "She's won our tournament, and she'll be playing No. 1," O' Quinn said. "I'm very excited about her, and I think she can do very well. She's definitely going to help the team a lot."
   O' Quinn believes that she could go down the road when tournaments start up in early May.
   "I think she has the possibility of doing that," O' Quinn said. "That's a lot of pressure on a freshman, but I'm expecting good things from her."
   O' Quinn believes the talent pool continues down through the lineup, as the Lady Cyclones bring back a lot of experience.
   "We have a pretty solid team," O' Quinn said. "Our top six I think will be pretty good. We have Liz Dove playing No. 2, Stephanie Schumaier is No. 3 and Hayley Shields is No. 4, and all these ladies are returning from last year. I think we'll have a very good team."
   The boys should also be solid, as David Reece is the top returning player from last year. He will play No. 1 for the Cyclones.
   "He's got a chance to do something in this conference," O' Quinn said. "I expect good things from him."
   A pleasant surprise for O' Quinn has been Weston Peters. He is relatively new to competitive competition, but the senior will be the No. 2 seeded player for Elizabethton.
   "He's got a lot of talent for not to play until his senior year," O' Quinn said. "I wish he had played all three years, but I expect a lot from him."
   Josh Davis, Chris Taylor and Devon Johnson all return from last year, and will be No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
   "We have some experience, so I'm expecting us to make some noise in this conference," O' Quinn said.
   Unicoi County has been the top dog in the Watauga over the last few years, but O' Quinn believes the Cyclones could give the Blue Devils tough competition.
   "Everyone I've talked to said Unicoi is the going to be the one we're going to have to beat. And we'll get an early chance, as next Tuesday we have Unicoi at home. We'll see what we're really made out of then."
Johnson County head coach Dottie Sue Phipps also has plenty to smile about, as she returns one the Watauga Conference's premier boys players.
   Adam Cornett was a District 1-AA finalist last season, and he looks to make it even farther in 2002.
   When asked if Cornett had what it took to make it to the state tournament, Phipps believed it could happen.
   "It's possible," Phipps said. "He's working really hard. I can see a real improvement. He's very motivated. I think he's going to do really well."
   Three other boys players return to the Longhorn lineup. Jamie Wright, Travis McCloud and Tim Persada all had solid years in 2001, and will look to continue on their success.
   Senior Billy Rambo and freshman Nicholas McCloud are new to the Johnson County tennis program, but will be counted on for production.
   The top returning girls player is Keri Cornett. She was a district semifinalist last season.
   "She's played four years," Phipps said. "She's looking forward to the matches getting started."
   Laura Mullins also brings some experience to the table for Phipps.
   Ashley Cole, Amanda Colvin and Amanda Howard are all newcomers to the program.
   One problem Phipps will run into on the girls side is lack of players. With only five on the team, Johnson County will have to forfeit one singles and one doubles match per contest.
   A positive for Johnson County going into the season is more matches. The schedule has been pretty thin the past few years, but that will change with Elizabethton and Sullivan Central entering the Watauga.
   "We're glad we've got more matches with more teams," Phipps said.
   Phipps believes it will be a successful season for the Longhorn tennis program.
   "They're all working hard," Phipps said. "They're going to do well. We're excited about getting started."