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Tennis team rises to the occasion in spite of injuries

When Johnson County left for Elizabethton in their first official conference tennis match missing two of their major players on the boys’ team and still feeling the sting of losing Dawn Lewis to an injury on the girls’ side, few would have guessed that the day would actually carry many positive outcomes. Yet, despite coming up short on an already limited roster, the Longhorns rose to the occasion and in several cases gave the Cyclones a memorable run.
Possibly the most spectacular moment of the entire evening came down to Tori Israel and Krista Warren’s huge 8-3 doubles victory over two of Elizabethton’s best players. Although the Cyclones extremely talented top seed was missing in action, Warren and Israel did a fantastic job mitigating the efforts of Elizabethton’s second and third ranked players.
“They played well,” said Head Coach Steve Nave. “We hadn’t ever won a match against Elizabethton’s girls so it was a pretty big deal. It’s what I’ve been saying for three years, that they are going to be there. This is one of the things that I’ve been hoping for. I was so happy. I’m super proud of them. They understand the process and they understand that it takes a while. They focus on doubles. They’ve played together now for three years. They are comfortable with each other. They’re good friends. It’s just what they have been focusing on and it paid off.”
Many of the other girls on the team were able to hold their own, and Warren had a strong singles match as well, but with Lewis absent many of the other girls have had to deal with the shock of suddenly being forced to play much higher ranked opponents. Ironically, although the roster changes have been difficult to deal with, Coach Nave is confident it will make the younger players much stronger in the long run. That fact was proven on the boy’s team when Freshman Spencer Stanley stepped up to face Elizabethton’s number one seed after both Andy Rosado and Mitchell Stockinger were forced to miss the match for a National Honor Society function.
Despite having never played before this season, Stanley has improved by leaps and bounds and was actually able to hold his own, even considering the large experience gap between him and his opponent. “Spencer’s match was very good for being a freshman,” Nave said.  “I was very happy with the way he played. It was the best he’s played all year. Everybody had to move up two spots. Spencer had to play their number one and did well. He had to step up because Andy and Mitchell weren’t there, but that was really good for him.”
Ultimately coming up short 8-3, the match still seemed to be a turning point for Stanley. So far the game has been all about learning the fundamentals and practicing, but now the possibility for real success is fast becoming a reality. “It’s pretty righteous,” Stanley said.  “I’m really starting to like it. It’s getting a lot better. Having to come over from basketball has really helped. I really feel like I could be good. I’ve been practicing every day. Heading up there on Saturdays, hitting against the wall. The toughest thing has been serving. Pretty much it just getting it to where I want it to go and putting a little more power on it too. I’m going to practice over the summer and get a lot better for next year, come in stronger. I’ve never played tennis. This is my first year. I just thought I would try it, but it’s working out pretty good. It something I really like.”
With even the most inexperienced players now stepping up and his veteran girls making waves as well, Nave seemed more than happy with the results against the Cyclones. “It was a very good day, “Nave concluded. “It’s hard to say when you lose that it was a good day, but considering everything that was happening I was pretty pleased.”