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Several Picayune tennis players pick up wins at West Harrison

Picayune’s Maroon Tide tennis team took on West Harrison last Thursday in a successful meet that saw several Picayune athletes earn victories.

Melanie Kellar won her singles match 6-0/6-0, Destiny Hannah and Katie Craft won their doubles match 4-6/6-3 with a 10-5 tiebreaker, Railey Dawsey and Anna Clogher won their doubles match 8-5, while Alex Velasquez and Danny Moore won their doubles match 8-6.

Head Coach Chris Wise said numerous athletes joined the squad this offseason, several of whom never played competitive tennis before. As such the focus during these early meets has been getting those players into matches and letting them learn on the fly.

“They’re improving, some of them improving quickly. They’re getting better by the day. I’ve still got a job to do with coaching to help them improve, but we’re getting better,” Wise said.

Teaching the game from the ground up means skipping over certain details that aren’t pertinent to first time players.

Wise has had to pick and choose what to expose his athletes to as they begin playing.

Now that the team has participated in a couple of meets, Wise is going to start reviewing some of the smaller details of the game to help his players advance.

“They have made a lot of advancements in terms of learning the game, but we need to begin (focusing on the) particulars, the nuances. Things like court positioning, where to be at the right time and how to read volleys to make plays. That’s what I’m looking at now,” Wise said.

While there is an aspect of teamwork when it comes to doubles matches, a lot of tennis comes down to individual performance.

That aspect, along with the crowding of spectators around the court, means there’s a unique sense of pressure put on tennis players.

Considering several squad members aren’t used to that kind of stress, Wise has also had to educate his players on the mental side of the game during these early matches.

It’s an ongoing process, but one that Wise is hoping will reap benefits in the future.

“In tennis there’s no distance, nobody in the stands. They’re right across the fence watching you. There’s maybe family or what have you that you want to please. Dealing with that has been a challenge, to just relax and play. It’s all about trying to get the kids to relax and quit overthinking. Just be instinctive, aggressive and they’ll learn to play better as they play,” Wise said.

Next up for the Maroon Tide will be a district meet March 11 against Hattiesburg.

Wise has previously said he wants this season to include a district championship, and the trip to Hattiesburg will be the first step in that direction.

“My expectation is for them to continually improve every time we play so when we get into district play and the district tournament they will have made great strides forward. I have hopes that we might end up in a good placement for the playoffs and in terms of where we stand in the district. It’s just a matter of them continuing to apply themselves, learn and devote some time to this, just like any other sport,” Wise said.