Smackover is scheduled to begin its tennis season on Aug. 17 against Camden Fairview. The Lady Bucks have fielded solid squads over the past few seasons, led by Mackenzie Preston, who will enter her senior year as one of the top singles players in 3A.
Coach Sonia Barker believes the Lady Bucks will have more depth this season and is also excited about a larger roster of male players.
Joining Preston as returning players for the girls will be Kaylee Manasco, Kaylee Davis, Reese McKinnon and Maeli Conley. They will be joined by Taylor Darden, Kaleigh Jerry and Gracie James.
Brennan Holland and Evan Phillips return to lead the Bucks with newcomers Abben Smith and Trace Davis.
“We are expecting state-qualifying play really from all of these returners but in particular in girls singles, doubles, and guys singles,” said Barker. “Our team happily welcomes three girls and two guys as newcomers: Kaleigh Jerry, Gracie James, Taylor Darden, Abben Smith, and Trace Davis. They are all poised to be able to help Smackover finish well in district and also send to state the most qualifiers we have had in a long time, which is one of our top goals for this season.
“As always a few of our other goals are to enhance everyone's individual and team strengths, minimize weaknesses, and add specific skills and strategies needed for a successful showing. The team has looked quite promising during our summer practices and is eager to play opponents in season matches.”
Smackover’s lineup for girls will be Preston and Conley in singles with doubles teams of McKinnon and Manasco, Davis and Darden and Jerry and James. The boys will have Phillips and Smith in singles with Holland and Davis teaming up for doubles.
Barker said Preston’s performance will be a big key for the team’s success this season.
“Mackenzie Preston, one of our five seniors this year, has, to her credit, set the bar for finishing better each year pretty high for herself,” said Barker. “She won second in district her freshman year, first in district her sophomore and junior years qualifying for the state tournament each year. She also accomplished her best finish in state last year with fourth place. I know she hopes to secure the district singles title again and complete her high school tennis career with an even more impressive state performance.
“Likewise our returning girls doubles team of Kaylee Manasco and Reese McKinnon, who helped us win the girls district championship last year, are ready to prove themselves with a district conclusion that will qualify them for state.”
Smackover has struggled a bit with numbers recently, especially on the boys’ side. She hopes that is slowly changing for the better.
“Smackover tennis does have a few more guy players this year filling both singles spots and hopefully both doubles teams,” said Barker. “I sent a message out after our last practice telling the entire team how excited I am for this year because of who we have playing, how I see them work, and what I want them each to experience in a positive, life-lessons learned season.”