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Longhorn tennis in rebuilding mode

L-R: Ashlee Anderson, Kaylee Anderson, Sami Csillag, Omar Linares, Hailey Rider, Ryleigh Icenhour, Rhiannon Icenhour, Shawn Arnold, Halaina Morefield, Faith Dowell, Stephanie Knight, Samantha Marra, Ciera Cranford, Josh Austin, Not pictured: Paiten Carroll, Matty Peake, James Potter, Brenton Black, Kaydance Ward, Jessie Anderson. Photo by Joey Icenhour

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor

The COVID virus hurt many sports at Johnson County but none greater than tennis. The Longhorns were destined to make the state tournament last year but only one
player returns from that squad making it a total rebuilding job for Head Coach Zack Pittman on the boys and girls side.

“We were one set away from making the state two years ago in the sub-state, and we were returning everyone last year,” said Pittman. “We are still trying to field a boys team but don’t know who will play. Tennis is a sport where kids have to commit. We’ve had some show up to practice, but we’re getting close to finding six we can take to matches.” 

That won’t be the case on the girl’s side, where Rhiannon Icenhour is back to lead the way. 

“Last year, she would have played in the No. 6 spot, but this year she’ll be No. 1,” said Pittman. “She has improved a lot, and we’re expecting good things from her. She’ll be our captain on both teams this year.”

Haley Rider is another girl who knows how to swing the racquet. She’s a good athlete. Surprisingly, she doesn’t play all sports. Ryleigh Icenhour is the next player, and she has looked good in practice.The Anderson twins, Ashley and Kaylee, and their little sister Jessie Anderson are next on the roster. Those should be the main ones, although there are six or seven freshman girls.

“I really don’t know who will take those bottom seeds,” added Pittman. “It’s wide open.”

Pittman wasn’t as optimistic with his boy’s team. “To be honest, Tim, we’ve yet to have a full team at practice,” added Pittman. “We’ve got kids trying to adjust their work schedules and such, so it’s been difficult so far. Omar Linares played his freshman season and has returned to try and help the boys. Josh Austin has been another dedicated player and will definitely find a spot in the lineup. The rest of the four seeds will be determined by who shows up to practice.

Coach Pittman said the frustrating part has been trying to find matches with the conference the way it is now.

“It looks like us, Chuckey-Doak, and Happy Valley are the only ones with teams,” he said.

North is not having tennis because he said many kids were working on basketball, hoping to make the team at the new school. Pittman believes they’ll be okay if he can get enough kids to come out and be a part of the program.

“I think our girl’s team will be outstanding within the next two to three years if they all stay out and play.”