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Eagle tennis features mix of youth and experience

Friday, April 4, 2008

With an 8-5 record last season, South Putnam tennis coach Johnnie Briones is expecting even more out of a young but talented squad.

The Eagles are anchored by seven seniors, but an impressive turnout from the freshman class had Briones all smiles. But for a coach who believes in a no-cut policy, it was difficult to have to turn some of those freshmen away.

"I've got some decent freshmen coming up and I'm really excited about that. I think a lot of that reflects the tennis camp. They've been coming to tennis camp when they were younger," Briones commented.

(Photo)
Chelsea Clark is one of seven seniors who will lead the way for South?Putnam this season.
Samantha Callahan, Liz Mink, Cassie Davis, Megan Criss, Kaila Kirkman, Whitney Warren and Chelsea Clark are the seniors who will be leading the Eagle charge this season. Mink, Warren and Clark are vying for the top spot, with all three engaged in heavily-fought challenge matches.

"I'm pretty excited," Briones said. "I've got three girls battling for that No. 1 spot, there's no spot set yet and I've got my doubles teams going back and forth so it's real competitive. I think the big thing is their attitudes. I love it.

"Liz has got power, Whitney is constant and Chelsea has a little bit of both. Their giving each other some good matches," Briones said.

Attitude was a word Briones used often when refereeing to his team. He noted that the improved attitude, both on and off the court, has the team in a position to make a good run this season.

"We were 8-5 last year, so we're expecting a lot out of these girls this year. Their attitudes reflect that. They've got some really good attitudes. They want to win their first match and roll from there," he said.

The first match of the season for South will determine the Putnam County champs as they go against the GHS Tiger Cubs. Briones acknowledged that GHS coach Trish Lowe always has her team ready and it will be a challenge for his team.

"Greencastle has always been our biggest nemesis, them and Northview, they (the team) are really excited about this year."

A coach is always concerned about team conditioning early in the season, but Briones said that because of his squad's dedication in the off-season has them ready to burst out of the gate.

"I think conditioning is a lot better than in the past. We've done a lot more running this year," Briones said. "I think in years past, this is the most conditioned team I've had. I think a lot of it is their attitude. In the past they never really wanted to run and I don't hear that this year. They're all really excited."

Briones received a nice surprise as the season began as he noticed the improved play from Megan Klotz. He commented on her attitude, her dedication in the off-season and her work habits. Briones also is impressed with Clark whose leadership and dedication he hopes will affect her teammates.

"Megan Klotz has really gotten a lot better since than last year," he said. "A fantastic attitude and good work ethic. I'm really excited about her. Chelsea Clark, I'm really proud of her. As a senior she's put a lot of time into it and her game's improved tremendously and it kind of rubs off on everybody. They know it's going to take and work hard."

South Putnam opens their season against Greencastle at home at 4:30 Tuesday.



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