Nation Ford's tennis team looks to improve on last season and build on the experience it gained in its first year as a program. Second-year head coach Matthew Rohring is expecting this team to make big strides and become a contender in the league this season.
The Falcons were just 5-11 last year, including 5-9 in the conference, but with one season under their belts, they have a chance to be much better this time around.
"It was really difficult last year getting girls interested in coming out for the team," Rohring said. "I only had two girls show up for my preseason meeting. The team last year was very raw with no high school match experience whatsoever."
Nation Ford will have to deal with losing its number one player from last season, but has many capable competitors ready to step in and fill her shoes. Ashley Trull, an eighth-grader, will be the Falcons' new ace this year. Rohring believes she is ready to assume her role and should be a force in the league.
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Sophomore Rylee Smith is moving from the fifth spot last season to the number two ranking on the team. Sarah Tourville, a junior, will be the number three player and sophomore Melanie Mullen will play the fourth spot to start the season. Junior Chelsea Jasper rounds out the top five for the Falcons.
"Rylee Smith has been one of our more consistent players and seems to be able to place her shots well this year. I am really expecting a lot from her," Rohring said.
Trull and Smith will form the number one doubles team. Freshmen Morgan Jasper and Jordan Bowers will make up the number two doubles team for Nation Ford.
"Jordan is a first-year player that has impressed everyone this year," Rohring said. "She is a great athlete with some tennis in her background, and this team is playing very well together."
The Falcons have 11 new players on their roster, but only one senior. This season's team is built for the future with two eighth graders, eight freshmen, six sophomores and four juniors, but think they can be competitive this year.
"We have been working on becoming consistent shot makers," Rohring said. "We need to cut down on unforced errors and gaining confidence in every shot is key to being consistent."
Rohring sees Clover as the team to beat in the conference. The Eagles boast a strong lineup from top to bottom. Also, Fort Mill High and Northwestern should be in the mix for the conference title.
Rohring, however, believes the Falcons can compete for the second spot in the conference this season.
"The girls on the team have worked so hard over the off-season, and they consistently work hard at practice," Rohring said. "I can already tell that some of the new girls are going to be tremendous assets."
Nation Ford opened its season Sept. 2 at Spring Valley (results were not available at press time). The conference schedule will begin on Sept. 16 when the Falcons travel to York.
The Falcons may be untested, but they appear ready to make a run for the conference championship this season. They are set up for being a good and experienced team for years to come.
"I am unbelievably excited to get the regular season underway," Rohring said.
"Last year, we were so young and had such little experience that we lost matches purely because of this. Now we can't use that as an excuse and the girls know what I am expecting of them."