“Last year’s team had a lot of seniors that played all of the matches,” Willis said. “We only have two returning players on this season’s varsity roster of 16. The rest of the team has never played high school tennis before so I’ve had to teach the basics of the game in our preseason practices.”
One positive for the Cougars is nearly 30 players tried out for the team, allowing them to form a separate junior varsity squad for additional matches.
“I always thought being on a team was important,” said junior Alison Gayman who is a new member to the team. “Each of us wants to become a better player.”
Senior Maegan Clay and junior Priyah Shah are the returning players and will have major roles with the team.
“Maegan is heavily invested in the game and I expect her to bring leadership because the other girls look up to her,” Willis said. “Priyah was an alternate last year and is excited to be playing varsity matches this year.”
Alexander plays in one of the strongest regions in Class 4A with LaGrange, who made the state playoff semifinals last season, Columbus and Carrollton, each of whom won a postseason match. “We’re going against experienced opponents but also building for a strong team in the future,” Willis said.
The Cougars have specific goals for preseason training.
“We want to establish a sense of community because that’s a big part of being on a team and working together,” Clay said. “Everyone has been getting along well and building relationships.”
Alexander opens the season against Chapel Hill on Feb. 20.