West Jessamine High School’s tennis team has paved the way for its state championship quality talent in recent seasons — talent that must now be molded anew.
The Colts boys team only returns one of its top six players (senior Andrew Monell) from last year after losing Zach Meikle to graduation and their top two doubles players, Logan and Tanner Sparks, to a temporary move to Singapore.
“We have a lot of new faces this year — more than we’ve had in the past few years,” said boys coach Josh Yost. “We’ve lost a lot of talent over the past few years, but we’ve got a lot of new players who are showing a lot of good ability early.”
According to Yost, Monell entered the season as the team’s No. 1 seed, replacing Meikle, who held the title during the 2012 season.
Senior Grants Wells and junior Joel Mansur also returned to compete for ensuing seeds behind Monell. But even with so many faces, it’s a challenge Yost enjoys having, just as once the case with Meikel and Scott Layton, now at Asbury.
“One of the things that I love about coaching young players, and players that are new to the sport, is they improve so quickly,” he said. “So you’ll see a lot of rapid improvement in the team that we are from the team we are during our first match to the team we are at the end of the season.”
Yost said if the newcomers will buy in, they can expect to improve, especially if they stick to his personal motto for the team: “Perfect practice makes perfect.”
“I tell all of my players from day one that I can forgive mistakes on the tennis court. What I can’t forgive is lack of effort,” Yost said. “I use (Meikle and Layton) as examples all of the time of people who were willing to put in the time and effort to become great tennis players.”
One thing Yost said is key to teaching them is not attempting to overhit the ball every time.
“In tennis it is more important to put the ball wherever you want to put it, as opposed to as hard as you can,” he said. “You have to have place before pace.”
The duos of Meikel and Layton, along with the Sparks brothers, have been where much of the team’s success has come from lately for the Colts, but West will now have a clean slate to start from.
“We’re looking to try a lot of combinations early in the year and we’ll find the set that works well together,” he said.
Unlike the boys, second year coach Kate McKenzie returns her top girls doubles team, as well as seven of her 12 players from last season.
“Last year my best two players were (sophomores) Bailey Ludt and Katie Mitchell,” McKenzie said. “This year as sophomores I think that they’ll both be playing singles and doubles. They’re very experienced players that know the physical and mental aspects of the game.”
McKenzie said in singles her Lady¿Colts will be led by Ludt as the No. 1 seed, Mitchell as the No. 2, and sophomore Emily Ingram in the third slot, who has impressed McKenzie with her development.
“She has come a long way,” she said. “She’s put a lot of work and effort into her game, and it looks great.”
McKenzie contributes a lot of her team’s success toward the teamwork and bonding she has emphasized to them in order to make a good tennis team.