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By Rick Butler

Special to the News-Times

Tennis season begins today for the El Dorado Wildcats and Parkers Chapel Trojans as both teams travel to Searcy to participate in the ninth annual Lion Invitational.

The Trojans, who return all but one starter on the boys side and half their girls lineup from last season, will be among the favorites in the boys division. Parkers Chapel’s boys team finished as the Class 2A runner-up at last season’s state tournament.

“We are looking forward to the Lion invitational. There is always good competition and my players enjoy the tournament a lot. It is a great way to start off the year,” said PC coach Casey Rapp. “We have five returning boys and three returning girls with some young talent as well.”

El Dorado will be in rebuilding mode under new coach Stephanie Thomas. The Lady Wildcats claimed last year’s Lion Invitational team title.

“The best part of the El Dorado High School Tennis team is the obvious camaraderie. These kids are playing together and playing for each other,” said Thomas. “Throughout the summer we have seen each other improve as well as constantly work together to get better. The start of the season is quickly approaching; we are excited and ready.”

Other teams participating include Cabot, Conway, Lake Hamilton, Benton, Searcy and Riverview.

Conway swept the doubles titles in last year’s Lion Invitational and all four players return, including Taylor Lemieux and Ashleigh Darnell on the girls side and Parker Padgett and Thomas McNabb on the boys’. Riverview’s Andrew Hill, a state semifinalist in Class 4A last season, will return to defend his boys singles title. Conway edged Searcy to claim last year’s boys tournament title.

Play begins at noon today and continues at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Searcy High tennis complex.

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