FORT MILL — As the girls tennis season begins, Fort Mill coach Angela Niccum is working to improve the Yellow Jackets’ program and continuing to hold a job that has been a lifelong dream.
Niccum, who played for Fort Mill, begins her sixth season as coach.
“Coaching here has been a dream come true for me,” said Niccum prior to a recent practice. “I look forward to coming out here every day and working with these girls.”
Niccum feels like her team will show a lot of improvement from a year ago, and she has several reasons to be optimistic.
“We have worked hard on our conditioning,” said Niccum, who also teaches English at Fort Mill. “We are in very good shape, and if you want to be a good team, you have to be in good shape.”
The Jackets will be young this season, but they have a great deal of experience returning from a year ago.
Freshman Rachel Brooks will play in the number one spot for Fort Mill. She is in her third season in the program. Reagan Raff, a sophomore in her fourth year in the program, will play the number two position.
Freshman Ellie Prain, who is in her third season on the team, will start in the number three spot. Senior Jessican Zahn, who is in her second season on the varsity, is at No. 4.
The fifth position is a battle between sophomore Mya Reeves and freshman Matea Milojkovic, and either of them could claim that spot.
Brooks and Raff will team up at No. 1 doubles, and the number two doubles team is still not set.
“We have had very good competition for the positions thus far,” said Niccum. “That competition every day has made us a better team already. Despite what position a player is playing at a match, that competition will continue throughout the season.
“This region is still an extremely tough one. There are five teams this year that will be very good and competitive.”
Niccum, who holds a master’s degree in English, feels like her team can be one of those five teams.
“I can see the improvement thus far this season,” she said. “We have come a long way from last year. However, in this region you have to be ready in every match.”
Niccum has 13 players in her program, including both varsity and junior-varsity players.
Niccum thinks that her young team has become more aggressive since last season, and is hoping it will translate into more wins.
“Our girls saw some excellent competition a year ago,” Niccum said. “We did not become timid or back down. I was proud of that. This year we are an older team and more experienced. I can already see our players playing with more confidence.”
Niccum has added something extra to this year’s schedule. She has started the inaugural Battle of the Border. She has two other Region 3-AAAA teams and three teams from North Carolina set to square off in a few weeks.
“We are going to get it started this year with six teams,” said Niccum. “I hope to keep adding teams with each year. That will make the tournament bigger and better.”
Niccum, who played number two singles and number one doubles while at Fort Mill, started coaching as a volunteer. When the head spot came open, she took it.
“It has been a challenge, but I love being back home and coaching here,” she said. “I know the caliber of players here, and I know the expectations on and off the court. The bar is very high.”