Mt. Vernon, Mo. (Ozarks Sports Zone) -- An injury to a key player kept the Mount Vernon girls’ tennis team from reaching its full potential a year ago, but the Lady Mountaineers think they have what it takes to go far in 2012.
Michelle Rust returns for her fifth season as coach of a squad that was 6-5 in dual matches last year. She’ll have plenty of experience on the court with seniors Paige McCoy and Allysa Shepherd and juniors Emily Fenton, Cara Violet, and Haley Richardson all returning letter-winners. Several sophomores and freshmen will battle for the sixth and final slot on the varsity team.
“This year is pretty positive, I think, for us as a team as a whole,” Rust said.
In her fourth year with the Mountaineers, McCoy is Mt. Vernon’s No. 1 player and combined with Fenton to win the doubles district tournament last year, but they were eliminated from further play in the sectionals. McCoy’s original partner had to miss most of the year with a knee injury, so the success with Fenton proved to be a pleasant surprise.
“It was kind of crazy,” McCoy recalled. “I didn’t think we actually would win districts, but when we did because of the competition there… they were really good so we just kind of had to push through that. We played like six hours straight; it was hard and it was hot. But we did it and when we went to sectionals, we didn’t play our best but it was a good experience so hopefully this year we’ll take it all or go farther than we did last year.”
McCoy says her forehand is the strength of her game and she prefers to play from the baseline. “I haven’t done very much at the net,” McCoy said. “Last year we kind of got more into the net and more into the slices and more of the tricky stuff, so hopefully this year we’ll do more of that, too.”
Rust said Violet made great strides last year. “Last year was her first year ever playing tennis, and we had an injury during Conference, and so that bumped her up into the varsity. And she’s really worked hard this summer. She’s been to every function we’ve had; she’s gone to camp. And I’ve just seen a huge improvement in her.”
The Mountaineers were fourth in the Big 8 Conference last year. Normally that means the middle of the pack, but only five league schools play tennis (Aurora, Lamar, Carl Junction, and Monett are the others). Rust sees Lamar as Mt. Vernon’s top competition this year as the Lady Tigers did not graduate any seniors from 2011.
“Of course, we’d like to win Conference. We had a taste of it last year, but Conference was very disappointing because one of our seniors went down with a knee injury.”
The schedule also includes tournaments at Monett and Rogersville, plus the Big 8 and district championships.
Pictured above: Mt. Vernon tennis coach Michelle Rust. PHOTO BY STEPHEN BUUS.
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