Cyclone, Longhorn tennis teams find room for optimism

By Rebecca Pierson
STAR Correspondent

   It is that time of year again -- time to serve up another season of tennis. Both Elizabethton and Johnson County are looking forward to the new season, and both coaches are full of hope in the young and growing programs.
   After finishing 8-2 in the conference and earning second-place finish in both the boys and girls teams, Elizabethton head coach Danny O'Quinn is totally confident in both of his teams.
   "Both the girls and boys are really young, but I expect good things this year," said O'Quinn, who lost two of his senior girls last year.
   Heading up the Lady Cyclone team is junior Amanda Pike, who was the state runner-up in doubles last year. O'Quinn plans on Pike making a strong standing in the singles this year.
   "She is the best by far," he said. "She comes from a good tennis family. I expect her to be top in the conference."
   Also returning this year is senior Allison Parlier, and sophomores Ashley Street and Erin Rogers. Lourean Hughes will make a senior debut on the team.
   Other newcomers include Rikki Baughman, Abby Culler, Kristina Elliott, Kala Culler and Jill Thompson.
   The boys' team lost their No. 1 and No. 2 to graduation last year, but return with their No. 3 in the district, sophomore Curtis Brumit.
   "I expect him to be top in the conference this year," O'Quinn said.
   Freshman Seth Wallingford has stepped into the second seed.
   "For a freshman, he is outstanding," he said. "He will probably be No. 2 in the conference."
   Also returning are sophomores Jordan Peters and Jared Tetrick, senior Jamis Gouge, junior Sean Snider, and freshmen Tim Franklin and Cody Richardson.
   "I am predicting we should be near the top, although I am not sure what Unicoi has got as far as their exchange students go," he said. "There will be some eighth-graders coming up for next year. By next year, I will just keep looking to improve and get better."
   Johnson County is also looking for a better jump into the season, starting out with a new head coach, Steve Nave, who also coaches middle school football and girls basketball. The team has also had a record number of students coming out for the team -- 25.
   The boys' team lost their No. 1, Adam Cornett, who won the District I-AA title last year with only two defeats for the season. Although Cornett has moved to the collegiate level at Virginia Intermont College, Nave says that he continues to support the Longhorns by working with the younger players.
   One such player is the boys' No. 1, sophomore James Cox, whom Nave says has a lot of potential.
   "I think James is going to be as good as Adam down the road," he said. "He is probably going to be playing No. 1 seniors. It's going to be tough, but he works harder than anybody I've ever seen. His work ethic is tremendous, and he really wants to get better."
   Another returning asset is Justin Genaille, who made the all-conference team last year and was two games shy of advancing to the singles semifinals.
   "He is steady, and he doesn't make any mistakes," Nave said. "He makes you beat him and at this level -- that's what you have got to do. He and James are the leaders."
   Other notables are Chris Eller, Nick McCloud, Jared Angel, Justin Magdzuik and Dakota Campbell. The rest of the Longhorn team includes Chad Parlier, John Lawyer, Judd Shoun, Jeremy Gerace and Joey Campbell.
   For the Lady Longhorns, junior Mandy Howard will be the team's No. 1.
   "Hopefully last year will be a learning experience," he said. "If you play No. 1 as a freshman or sophomore, you're going to take some lumps because you are playing seniors. I think she has learned from that and will do better this year."
   Two through four spots will likely be Rebecca Sannes, Katie Sluder and Laura Guest.
   "The competition for those final spots is going to be real competitive," he said.
   Those trying to earn those spots are Megan Hayworth, Lindsey Gilbert, Kayla Fletcher, Kerissa Kazire, Brittany Brewer, Elise Burnitz, Leslie Trivett, Jennifer Arney, Trisha Vance and Courtney Motsinger.
   Nave believes that his girls will come out with some surprises this year.
   "I think we will be better," he said. "We've got 13 girls out. If the interest is there, and the work ethic is there, then we can improve."
   Both Longhorn teams have been drawing continued interest since Cornett's success last year, and the return of the girls' team, after being down a few years.