A-E numbers still low, while Carter is loaded

By Steve Williams

Tennis, anyone?

Austin-East High has been trying to rebuild a tennis program the past two years, and it still has a long way to go.

Going into this season, Co-Coaches Tomere Clark and Skikila Smith, had six girls, just enough for a team to play a match (six playing singles and three doubles teams).

But for last Wednesday’s scheduled match against Carter at the Harriet Tubman Tennis Courts, A-E had only one female player present. Coach Clark said one player had been injured in a match the day before and one player couldn’t attend because she had a mandatory band rehearsal to attend for an upcoming concert.

As for male players, Clark said he had three players at the start of the season. That number dropped to two. Career Magnet Academy had two boys playing on the A-E team last week, thanks to the TSSAA’s co-op program, giving the Roadrunners four players.

“We did ask some of the basketball players – like (Shane) Cherry and (Juwaan) Troutman – but they just weren’t interested in playing,” said Coach Clark. “I’ve been talking to the basketball coach (Denard Bertram) trying to get them involved, but we’re having a hard time. But eventually the sun will come out.”

Clark said he thinks Condis Cherry runs track in the spring and Shane Cherry is playing AAU basketball this time of the year. Clark said he thinks Troutman also is on the track team.

“It (tennis) is basically still a brand new sport at Austin-East,” added Clark. “This is the second year of trying to restart it.”

He thinks once the sport gets in full gear and more people come out who are not playing any spring sport, tennis will take off at A-E.

According to Clark, two former tennis champions – husband and wife John and Kate Watson who live in West Knoxville – sparked the hope of restarting tennis at Austin-East, after discovering A-E did not have a program.

Another former tennis standout, Ray Gill, also got involved and now assists with teaching the game to student-athletes at Vine Middle School, which could eventually feed into the A-E high school program.

Meanwhile, Ray Wynn, first-year tennis coach at Carter this year, had a lot of success in adding players to his program. He took over for former coach Lainey Corum, who is now in grad school at UT.

“Tennis season came around and they needed someone to step up and take the reins, so I was the man for the job,” said Wynn.

“I have 12 girls and 10 boys on our team. And last year I think we had seven total kids – three boys and four girls, so we’re up to a full team this year. We have a good mix of seniors and juniors, a couple of freshmen, one sophomore. None of them had ever played tennis before!”

What’s the secret of getting that many out?

“Beg,” said Wynn. “You walk the halls and you find every kid you can find and you just beg them. Ask them what they’re doing. And my thing that I do, I don’t necessarily go out there and find the popular kids – the ones that play football and basketball – I go find kids that might just be interested in something to do. And that’s where a lot of these kids are.

“I do have several multi-sport athletes on the team here. I got three kids that play football and are playing tennis now. I’ve got one kid that was a wrestler. I’ve got a couple from the girls’ basketball team. I’ve got a couple of cheerleaders. I’ve got one girl that’s a dancer. You know, I just went and found any kid that would be interested in playing and they all just kind of stepped up. They’ve really liked it since we started.”

Carter swept the boys’ and girls’ matches against Austin-East last week, 9-0 and 8-1. Their April 24 match at Tyson Park has been rescheduled for April 29 at Harriet Tubman Park.


Carter vs. A-E tennis results

At Harriet Tubman Park

Wednesday, April 17

Boys Singles: Tanner Holguin (C) defeats Luke Jones 6-0, Jayden Spires (C) defeats Dajon Upshaw 9-7, Luke Harold (C) defeats Jeremiah Daniels 6-4, Christopher Keene (C) defeats Cayden Yarbrough 6-1, Royce Roberts (C) wins by forfeit, Spencer Russell (C) wins by forfeit.

Boys Doubles: Holguin-Spires (C) win 6-1, Harold-Keene (C) win 6-1, Roberts-Russell (C) win by forfeit.

Girls Singles: Carmella Darling (A-E) defeats Josie McCreary 6-3, Kali Gentry-Foye (C) wins by forfeit, Macey O’Connor (C) wins by forfeit, McCreary (C) wins by forfeit, Kameryn Lee (C) wins by forfeit, Izzy Hill (C) wins by forfeit.

Girls Doubles: Lee-McCreary (C) win by forfeit, Gentry-Foye and O’Connor (C) win by forfeit, O’Connor and Georgia Sharpe (C) win by forfeit.