By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
The Longhorn netters have a new head coach, and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic in 2018. Zach Pittman took over the program after serving two years as an assistant basketball coach for Eric Crabtree who is now the assistant baseball coach.
Pittman is no stranger to the courts having starred on them at Mountain Heritage High in Burnsville, North Carolina. Pittman said that coaching tennis is a role he feels most comfortable doing.
“Tennis is my main sport, and I’ve continued to play it throughout my entire life after high school and college,” said Pittman. “I’m very excited about working with these
kids and seeing what they can over the next couple of months.”
Pittman will have a very young squad, but there is plenty of up and coming talent to work with on the team. Sophomore sisters Taylor and Olivia Cox along with Dalton Sluder each District games last year. The Cox sisters knocked on the No. 1 seed and will lead this year’s squad along with Mason Stanley.
“We lost two really good seniors from last year’s team, so we’re young all around,” said Pittman. “Our top two girl players are sophomores, and nearly two-thirds of our
team is all newcomers to tennis.”
The Longhorns have several players vying for the first six spots for the ladies, but only six boys are in the program. Pittman sees a lot of potential on both sides.
“We have just enough boys to have a team,” said Pittman. “Our top three players, Mason Stanley, Dalton Sluder and Noah Cox are strong.”
Will Henson will hold down the four spot with Noah Nelson and Omar Linares playing at five and six.
“Mason is our top player right now, but Dalton and Noah are really close so that could change,” said Pittman. Will just keeps getting better and I can see him becoming a very good player as the season progresses. He’s a natural at it. He’s going to be really good. Noah is a sophomore that is improving while Omar just started but he’s picking it up really well. I can see some of those guys doing well because they all are new to the game.”
The girl’s side is very talented on top with Taylor and Olivia Cox playing at the one and two spots. Caleigh Blair and Haley Cannon will perform at the three and four spots while Maddie Icenhour is penciled in at five. The sixth spots are up for grabs between first-year players Taylor Parsons and Margaret Morrow.
Taylor and Olivia really know how to play, and they are exceptional at doubles,” said Pittman. Caleigh, Haley, and Maddie have looked good so far in practice. We will let Taylor and Margaret play it out for the six spot. Some players do better in doubles than they do in singles. We’ll figure out who can play where but I am excited about the kids we have in our program.”
Pittman is still trying to schedule games due to the new conference makeup. The Longhorns are in league with Sullivan North and Chuckey-Doak. Happy Valley is in the league, but they only have girls’ tennis.
“We don’t have many teams in our conference because Elizabethton and some of the others are no longer in it. Some schools have already filled their schedules, but we are still trying to get some matches. North Carolina plays boys in the spring and girls in the fall so we’ll try to get a couple of boys’ matches. We want to play all that we can. I’m hoping that some of the teams in the other leagues will schedule a match with us.”
Tim Tugman and Craig Cox will assist Pittman with the coaching duties.