Dedication leads to excellence for Elizabethton's Dove, Reece

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Two Elizabethton High senior tennis players took their lumps early on in their careers, but have now risen to the top of the Watauga Conference.
   Liz Dove and David Reece both took similar paths to the top, and have been key cogs the last two years in the resurgence of the EHS tennis program.
   Dove started out as a freshman as a raw beginner, and knew what she had to do to get better.
   Dove decided to start taking private lessons from former ETSU assistant coach Larry Stamm, who has since left tennis altogether to become a missionary.
   But Stamm did wonders for Dove's game, and she has continued her lessons this year with a new private coach. Dove now takes lessons from Todd Smith of the Bristol Racquet Club.
   "That helped a lot," Dove said of the private lessons. "I just went out practicing in the summer, and tried to get better every year."
   Another thing that helped Dove get better was sacrifice. After her sophomore season, Dove decided to quit basketball and concentrate all her efforts on tennis.
   "I love basketball," Dove said. "It was tough to give up. I just wanted to focus on one sport, and become as good as I could in that. I figured tennis was the sport that I might play in college."
   Dove reaped the benefits of concentrating on tennis as a junior. Dove lost only one match in the conference in No. 2 singles, then teamed up with Amanda Pike to advance to the state in doubles.
   Dove was also a big part of the Lady Cyclones' advancing to the state as a team.
   As far as the doubles accomplishment, Dove thinks both of them worked extremely hard to get that far.
   "I never thought we would get that far," Dove said. "I'm proud of Amanda and I for working as hard as we did.
   "She definitely makes me a better player."
   The doubles success has helped Dove believe in herself even more. Going into this week's spring break vacation, Dove had yet to lose a match in conference play at No. 2 singles.
   The District 1-AA Tournament is coming up, and even though Pike and Dove would be threats in singles, it looks like the dynamic duo will try to make a second-straight trip to the Spring Fling in doubles.
   "I'm pretty sure we'll go back in doubles," Dove said. "We're undefeated in the conference so far this year, and I hope we'll go back to the state."
   Once high school tennis is over with, Dove hopes to continue playing at the next level.
   "I've received a couple of offers from smaller colleges," Dove said. "We'll see how good the offers look come May."
   Reece also started out as a freshman wanting to grow in tennis. Reece started taking lessons at the Johnson City Country Club with Club Pro and Science Hill coach Pete Zannis, along with his assistant.
   "I tried to hit every day," Reece said. "I played at the country club, and practiced every day. I stayed focus during practice. I realized to get where you want to be, you've got to set some goals."
   Reece seemed to be progressing well, but a major setback happened his sophomore year when he broke his wrist.
   "Hurting my wrist was detrimental to my game," Reece said. "It makes you desire it more when you can't play."
   Reece was out most of his sophomore year, but rallied strong as a junior. Reece teamed up Weston Peters to win the District 1-AA boys doubles title on their home courts.
   The duo was defeated in the Region 1-AA Tournament's first round after they were leading before rain halted play and forced them to drive all the way back to Pigeon Forge to finish.
   "The next day after we lost that match, I was working on my game," Reece said. "Last year motivated me a lot."
   The motivation seems to be paying off. The other big highlight of Reece's career came last month when he won 6-4, 6-0 over Johnson County's Adam Cornett.
   Cornett currently leads a tight race for the No. 1 seed in the District Tournament. Reece can put himself in the driver's seat if he can knock Cornett off again in Mountain City, a match that was rained out last week.
   "I went out there and played my game," Reece said. "I kept my head in the match and stayed focus. If he's on that day, then it's tough to beat him. Luckily, I had some chances to have some breaks."
   Even if Reece ends up winning the top seed, he may elect to play with upstart freshman Curtis Brumit in doubles.
   "I think we can make a long run in doubles," Reece said. "I'll try to make the best decision."
   Another decision that Reece might have to make in the upcoming weeks could be where to play college tennis. Reece feels he could contribute at the next level.
   "I feel I can play as good as any five or six seed, because of my work ethic and I'm willing to do whatever it takes," he said.