9-0 Jags dominate in middle school tennis

Published 1:16 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023

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The Ellis girls tennis team’s final match of the season against North Davie on Oct. 2 was more of the same. The Jaguars rolled 9-0 to complete a 9-0 season.

They overwhelmed everyone in their path in 2023, winning eight times by a 9-0 margin and once by an 8-1 spread (against South Davie). It’s the first perfect season in the program’s 17-year history.

“They didn’t know they were making memories – all they knew is they were having fun,” seventh-year coach Amanda Cranfill said.

Kate Chaffin, Sydney Ward, Olivia Rareshide, Sydney Galloway, Avery Gladd and Gabrielle McFarlin all posted glittering 9-0 records in singles. Five of those six are eighth graders, the exception being seventh-grader Ward.

“Our team had a lot of fun together,” Cranfill said. “Kate and Sydney provide good leadership for their teammates on the court. They practiced hard on the weekends on their own since our court times were limited due to sharing only four courts with the boys team this year. Like most rising sixth graders, Kate and Sydney had played other sports, but not tennis. They were strong athletes and signed up for some tennis lessons with Bill Appelt. Kate was awarded Rookie of the Year in sixth grade and quickly became one of the top players on the team. Kate is an athletic kid and she has a drive and a determination to win. She has a lot of perseverance and heart for the game. She’s a natural athlete who decided to try something new in middle school, and she’s turned out to be very good.

“Similarly, Sydney trained with Kissy Merrifield and quickly improved her singles game with a strong forehand and good pace on her serve.”

The squad included Miranda Sapp, Layla Hazlip, Sarah Elbably, Piper Davis and Carson Moger.

“Coach Andy Soots (of South Davie), coach Janet Dyson (of North Davie) and I always agree that our middle school teams should be reminded that these girls will be teammates at Davie sooner than they realize, so it’s important to be kind to each other on the courts,” Cranfill said. “We recognize our middle school tennis programs are ‘feeder programs’ for the high school. Middle school is the right opportunity to try a new sport to see if you like it well enough to pursue tennis in high school.

“One of my goals as their coach is to ensure tennis practice and match days are the best part of their day. (Eighth grader) Avery Gladd made up a ‘victory dance’ as a joke, and that evolved into a custom for the girls to celebrate their win after each match. It’s good to see them encourage each other, laugh at themselves and enjoy team dinners together after the matches. ‘Tennis and Tacos’ were our favorites this year.

“Our doubles teams typically depended on the outcome of the singles matches and who was ready to play when a court became available. (Seventh grader) Layla Hazlip joined the team for her first season and really dominated at the net. Olivia Rareshide was always dependable no matter who she played doubles with. I could count on her to be a calming force for her teammates. She helped keep me organized and was an important leader on the team.”