After three years as coach of the Daniel High girls tennis team, Jon Parker gets a thrill when a former player stops by campus and says she is still active in the game, often in college in intramural or club tennis.
This year, the Lions are building a new squad of likely life-long tennis players, relying on mostly young athletes who should form the nucleus of a successful program for the immediate future.
“I have all juniors and freshmen among the top seven who usually compete in a match,” said Parker.
In fact, Daniel’s No. 1 is a freshman, Margaret Wang. “It’s our third year with her,” Parker said.
According to the coach, Wang attended the Brookstone clinic in Anderson to work on her game, but Parker said, “She’s not a tournament player, doesn’t have a personal coach. She just works really hard.”
Off to a 5-2 start as of Sept. 23, Daniel is looking to improve on a second-place finish in the Western AAA Region in 2014 and a second-round finish in the playoffs.
The Lions’ goal in 2015 is to be region champs, but a recent close loss to Seneca threw up a big obstacle in their path.
“We have to play them again, and the goal is basically to beat them two more times,” said Parker.
Assuming both rivals stay on course, Daniel would need to beat Seneca in the second meeting, and then there would be a playoff to decide the region crown, Parker explained.
For now, it doesn’t bother Parker that his players seem to put more emphasis on academics than sports.
“They study until it’s time for their match to start, then they go home and study some more,” he said.
Parker, however, would like them to sacrifice some of their weekends when they normally would take a brief break from the books.
“I want them to play more on their own during the weekend,” he said. “I’d say the girls have bought into that.