Smackover’s tennis players made tremendous strides in the course of one season. Among the most improved was the trio of Paige Goodwin, Reese McKinnon and Mackenzie Preston, who qualified for the 3A State Tournament, which will be held Oct. 14-15 at Burns Park in Little Rock.
Smackover’s entire tennis program had just one player with varsity experience this season. The Lady Bucks claimed the district tournament championship.
“I have to say that I am extremely proud of my entire team, girls and guys, for all of their hard work and tenacious playing at district,” said Coach Sonia Barker.
“My three state qualifiers have worked consistently from the start of the season until now, and will continue to, of course, up to state and beyond. They have all three progressed in their individual abilities since July, working on all parts of their game. They all do a good job of self-assessing their strengths and weaknesses and spending their practice time focusing on the areas that need the most attention.”
Preston, a sophomore, claimed the singles district championship. Goodwin and McKinnon finished third in doubles.
“Mackenzie targeted consistency in her first serve to an extent that it helped her be victorious in the singles division,” Barker said. “Paige has worked on her serve and her ground strokes as the season progressed and Reese has become a much more aggressive net player than at the outset.”
Considering their inexperience, the Lady Bucks have already exceeded expectations. Their coach is excited to see what happens when they step up against the state’s elite players.
“The keys for Paige and Reese in doubles at state will be for them to play aggressively and not be intimidated by their debut at a state tournament and to communicate well as partners, playing on the strengths of each while taking advantage of any weaknesses in their opponents,” said Barker. “As to how well can they fair, I know it will be a much tougher field of competitors at state, but they did place third in their first appearance at district so I expect them to give it their all to advance as far as possible.”
As for the district singles champion?
“I expect Mackenzie to do well in the State Tournament and advance past the first day,” said Barker. “She is the type of player who could win her division and who will have to be taken seriously to be taken down.”