Before COVID-19 ended their season, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams traveled to East Central to face off against the Warriors on March 10, 2020.
The #19 ranked Lady Bobcats beat the #20 ranked Lady Warriors winning two of the three doubles matches and three of the six singles matches to make the final tally 5-4. The #20 ranked Bobcat men’s team defeated the #21 ranked Warriors men’s team winning one of the three doubles matches and four of the six singles matches.
The women’s win helped them keep their perfect season alive, pushing it to 12-0, with a 9-0 conference record. The men’s win pushed their overall record to 11-2, with a 9-0 conference record as well.
Since Head coach Brooks Buffington’s arrival in 2017, women’s tennis has only lost 4 games in their last three seasons combined, and men’s tennis has taken a giant leap over their past two seasons, going 15-5 and 11-2. Before the pandemic ended their season, men’s tennis was on track to sapping their conference championship drought.
“It’s disappointing knowing that we had a really good team that had the potential to do some big things this year, such as having the chance to win the first conference championship in 30 years,” said sophomore Trey Hilton.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to claim the conference title and end the drought, coach Buffington was more disappointed that his players were not able to finish their season, especially the sophomores.
“It was extremely sad for the sophomores who had put in so much time and effort into our program over their two years to not be able to end the season the way we wanted to,” he said.
The upside for the men’s team is that they only lost two sophomores last spring, so they will be bringing back the same squad for the most part.
“We have a very solid team returning but will need for everyone to step it up a level by learning from their freshmen year, making adjustments to their game, and executing experienced decisions on the court…,” said Buffington.
However, unlike the men’s team, the women’s team lost five sophomores last spring, which was half of their team. Buffington was not worried about the loss of his five sophomores having a detrimental effect on his women’s team success.
“We have two international freshmen coming in that I have very high expectations for, we picked up some solid freshmen within Mississippi, and the x-factor is Judith Mills, a returning sophomore, who is always putting in productive time on and off the court to improve her game,” Buffington said.
Women’s team sophomore Judith Mills added on to what Buffington said, “We are confident and hopeful that we can continue the winning culture not just for us but for coach! Last year we all worked very hard to put in the extra effort to be in the place we were when the season ended, and that the is what I am bringing back this year – the same work ethic to get us back where we ended last season.”
Both teams will be looking to go into the 2021 spring season with high expectations to not only reclaim their top position in their perspective conferences but also build on it. Besides Mills, women’s tennis returning sophomores will include Ally Brooke Chism, Stori Endt and Kamryn Rodriguez. Other than Hilton, men’s tennis returning sophomore class will include Kwanda Mbalekwa, Gaspar Meda, Ryan Myers, Daniel Panzica, Greyson Parman and Braxton Wallis.
by Johnathan Richardson