The Picayune tennis team took part in the state tournament in Oxford this past week and will use the experience to help grow the squad.
Even though none of the six players representing the Maroon Tide made it past the first round, the opportunity to compete exposed the athletes to what top tier tennis looks like.
“We’re trying to have people learn and appreciate the high level of tennis these people are at. We played well and it’s encouraging that the people that are still playing (in the tournament) were our opponents. So we didn’t advance, but we also didn’t lose to any slouches. Everybody up here is good and that’s something you appreciate and respect,” Wise said.
Half of the athletes who made the state tournament had never picked a tennis racket up competitively prior to the start of the season.
The chance to go up against some of the best players in the state will help the inexperienced players understand what is needed to get to the next level, but that didn’t meant the Maroon Tide’s athletes shied away from the competition.
“I was pleased with how well they handled it. Some of the nuances some of these high level players have is something we’ve not seen. I was pleased that they all got in there and battled and all managed to score a few nice points. They stayed with them and played with them,” Wise said.
However, now that the season is over the athletes know more precisely their strengths and weaknesses.
The newcomers are comfortable on the court and with their technique, so now it comes down to putting the practice hours in with the racket.
“They made drastic improvements and I think getting to the point where we got into the playoffs and were competitive in the playoffs is big. Some of these people that are high-level athletes, that’s what the next step was. We’re improving in increments, we’re getting there,” Wise said.
While there were numerous athletes who joined the squad prior to the 2021 season, the hope is to continue growing the program.
Success on the court and the recognition that comes with that could lead to an influx of more athletes joining the team.
“I really am excited about what I have coming back.
More athletes are talking about coming out and being part of the team thanks to the exposure the success is creating. When we left school on Tuesday we left to 100 kids that were cheering us on and the exposure that our success is creating is getting a lot more kids asking about the team. It becomes infectious because of the success, and hopefully other athletes will wake up to it and want to be a part of it,” Wise said.