By Tim Chambers
The Lady Longhorns’ tennis team had a banner season in 2017 and two seniors factored heavily in its success. Ashtyn Henson and Gracie May will leave some big shoes to be filled when the 2018 season rolls around.
They dynamic duo lost only one time during the regular season before dropping its first round game against Greeneville’s state ranked squad 6-0, 6-0 on Monday in the regional.
Henson knew what they were facing but said it didn’t take away what the team had accomplished.
“This was my best season ever,” said Henson. “Gracie and I worked super hard since last year to reach this point. We had people watching us and we didn’t want to let them down. It was a great feeling beating Elizabethton and knowing we made the regional our last year. I couldn’t have accomplished any of this without my coaches or Gracie. I owe a lot to all of them.”
Their only blemish in doubles play came against Sullivan East earlier in the season. This from a team who lost in the first round of the district as sophomores and logged only one win as juniors.
“I think we started to click toward the end of our junior season,” said May. “We started playing with a ton of confidence.”
Much like they did while knocking off Elizabethton in the District that allowed them to make the regional.
“We went in confident and hardcore against them,” said May. “We had already beaten them once so we were ready. We play against the Cox twins all the time and they push us to the limit. We had already been tested every day in practice.”
May talked about the impact the Cox girls made on the tennis team. She knows they’ll be something special down the road.
“Taylor and Olivia can flat out play,” added May. “Coach Cox told us to act like it was them when we played our doubles match today. I can see them making the state tournament before they graduate. They really helped our team this year.”
Both Henson and May said that playing tennis together was special and it’s made their friendship even better. But all good things must come to an end.
The duo will test the waters outside of Johnson County in 2018.
Henson will wear the orange and black as a Milligan College Buffalo. May will cross the state line and play at Emory & Henry.
“It’s sad to watch it end,” added Henson. May echoes those same sentiments.
Henson thanks her mom, Michelle Michael, for always being there to support her. She also thanked Coach Eric Crabtree, Cox and Tim Tugman for making her a better player.
May praised Crabtree, Tugman and Cox for making her a better player. She also thanked her parents, Buck and Kathy May, for all their support and the Cox twins for pushing them in practice.
May said the part she will miss most is leading prayer for her and Henson before they participate in a doubles match.
“It’s sad when I think about not getting to play with Gracie ever again,” said Henson. “We had so many great times together. I wish her nothing but the best.”
May added. “It’s good to know our tennis careers will continue at the next level. Many people have helped me achieve this goal. One of those was Gracie. I will always be indebted.”