The Pulaski County High School girls tennis team is looking to lean on the leadership of its veteran players this season.
The team features eight returning players from last year's squad, including five of its top six players in senior Mindy Pierett and juniors Amanda Salinas, Maddy Chitwood, Katelyn Armbrister, and Magen Stacy.
"On this team, I have a lot of great returning players," second-year girls' head coach Sarah Vaught said. "I've got some strong leadership on the team. I have some strong leadership with my juniors too. So with that mixture, it should be another good season.
"I expect them to do really well this year. There is a lot of dedication on this team. Tennis is an individual sport, but we do win as a team and lose as a team along with winning and losing individually."
This season the team looks to improve upon its district record but maintain the success it's had in its non-district schedule:
"Last year, in the district we didn't do as well," Vaught said. "We took Mindy, our No. 1, ended up seventh. We did really well out of district. We beat William Fleming and Giles. Graham is the only one we couldn't beat. They did really well last year. Last year, being my first year of coaching and not knowing much, they did really well."
Vaught has seen one particular group step up in just her second season as girls head coach, hoping they will be a part of the success the team experiences.
"This year, my juniors are the one who are here every day," Vaught said. "Amanda Salinas, Maddy Chitwood, and Magen Stacy—they really have helped all the girls.
"Mindy Pierett practices with a private instructor sometimes. When she is here, she practices with our new senior, Mindy Hall, and she works with the other girls on the tricks she knows. They are all willing to go out there and hit and teach each other constructive criticism."
Just like every other spring sport, the tennis team's progress has been slowed by the large amount of snow received this winter.
However, Vaught feels it didn't affect her team in a large capacity:
"The first two weeks of practice, we were either in the gym or in the weight room and not really being able to play on a court," Vaught said. "With half the team returning, they all knew how to hit. The other players we have been able to work with them the few days we have been out on the court.
"Since we are on the asphalt, it is a lot easier to have practices because we don't have to wait on it to dry. It has been really nice with that. We had to set up an old net with volleyball poles in the gym and wooden boards in the middle of it. We practiced with the boys too, which is good."
Helping both tennis teams this year was a generous donation by Randy Eley, a lawyer from Pulaski. Before he passed away, Eley headed the organization "Friends of Pulaski Co. Tennis." His wife Donia sent a check to the teams in the amount of $1,500.
"Both teams were able to buy new score cards for the courts," Vaught said. "It has helped a lot because of the budget cuts. We don't have as much money as we normally do. Our score cards were duct-taped and falling apart. Our score cards help our courts look better. We are hoping donations can help keep our courts in good condition until we can resurface."
By CODY DALTON