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Spring season brings bustling activity at LTC

It’s not as if the Lion Tennis Center (LTC) is an abandoned building during the fall, but nothing holds a candle to how busy the facility gets each spring.
Ennis’ spring season was supposed to take the court last weekend, but wet weather postponed the 16-team Varsity Polarbear tournament that was originally scheduled to be played over the course of two days. Now the Polarbear will be compressed into a one-day event this Saturday, only hours after a different field of 16 teams compete in Ennis’ Varsity Frostbite Invitational Tournament tomorrow.
Thanks to the eight courts that Waxahachie High has to offer and the nine courts at the LTC, 32 teams in two days will happen in what will be a hectic 48 hours to say the least for Lion coaches Keith Howard and Wyatt Johnson.
“It’s awesome to have four indoor courts, but that can’t house 256 players at a tournament,” Howard said of the decision to postpone the Polarbear.
“We’re looking at 120 matches on our nine courts each day, and you have to modify your scoring format in order to make it happen. Without the cooperation of Waxahachie High, these would have to be eight-team tournaments, which is what we used to do.
“Over time, our tournaments have gotten bigger as the interest to participate in them has grown and [wet] weather has become more of a factor. It’s a lot of work to host them, but also good for our team because we don’t have to travel as much.”
Both of the tournaments are open for all schools to enter until the field is full, which is fine because Howard said most teams have at least one or two outstanding players. Corsicana figures to be the strongest team in the Polarbear, while Wichita Falls Old High is the powerhouse in the Frostbite.
The Varsity March Madness Tournament will be the final LTC event of the spring, but the granddaddy of Lion tennis tournaments is the Hwy 287 Invitational Tournament next month. Howard tries to guarantee every player four matches at the event and makes sure to invite all of the schools who made regionals in the prior team tennis season.
By doing so, the tournament is very beneficial to coaches at the regional seeding meeting after district because of all the head-to-head matches that will have taken place. Wichita Falls Old High and Wichita Falls Rider will both be there and Highland Park is normally a participant; all of which are top-five teams in the state. In fact, virtually every team in the field is ranked in the state’s top 25.
In addition to all of the varsity action, the LTC also hosts six JV tournaments this spring. At one point it appeared to Howard as if he would have to create two JV teams, which would make travel plans more difficult.
He added that by hosting JV tournaments, however, it’s much easier to accommodate all of those players. With 10 Lion tennis seniors set to graduate this year, it’s crucial for the future of the varsity program that the JV players get a similar amount of tournament experience.
“Our fall district matches are no problem from a scheduling standpoint,” Howard said.
“Coach Johnson and I are much busier this time of year, but if you want your varsity, JV and junior high programs to be good they all have to play a lot of matches. It would be much harder to fill our tournaments up without a successful program, but we’ve been fortunate to have some good teams in years past.
“As a coach, you take pride in putting on a successful tournament. Your program’s reputation enables you to draw top teams and that competition helps your program even more. Opposing teams love coming to our facility.”
With nine courts, including an unmatched four indoor courts, the LTC makes the Ennis program above average in terms of available courts, but the Lions’ district rival to the southeast is setting a new standard. With nine courts at the Mertz Tennis Center, 12 new courts at the high school and six new courts at the junior high, Corsicana tennis now boasts a whopping 27 courts available for tournament play, giving the Tigers unlimited possibilities.
Nobody appreciates the LTC more than Howard, but he recognizes that continued growth catches up to nearly every athletic facility at some point.
“Like any sports program that grows, you eventually outgrow your facility,” Howard said.
“It’s a good problem to have because it means your program is successful. We’re fortunate to have nine courts, but it’s easy to pack the facility with hundreds of players at our tournaments.
“With more available courts, standard match scoring is possible because time availability on a given court isn’t as much of a concern. The number of courts Corsicana now has is very impressive, but I’m sure they’d like to be able to practice on a rainy day as we’re able to do.”
As for the program’s leading Lions, Calvin Berning and Aaron Woods finished fourth in the region in boys’ doubles last year after taking the district crown. Howard believes they have every right to be favored to repeat as district champs, adding that they’ve got a shot to be Ennis’ first boys’ doubles team in years to advance to state. Tyler Nichols, Nick Young and Jose Salazar are all seniors who’ve got a great shot for success in the district tournament and could possibly advance to regionals, according to their coach.
On the girls’ side, Beth Slone has returned to the program after a break in the fall and she’s been the No. 1 Lady Lion for Ennis over the past couple of years. She’ll be teaming up with Colby Pechal, who played No. 1 for Ennis last fall.
“Beth is probably the steadiest player on the team, while Colby is the most intense and aggressive player,” Howard said.
“Those contrasting styles give that pair tremendous potential. The rest of our girls’ side is fairly young, but I think we’ll have some pleasant surprises.”
With the season kicking into high gear in a matter of hours, weather permitting of course, Howard knows what he’s looking forward to while understanding the focus of his players.
“The players’ goal is to qualify for the regional tournament and see what they can do from there,” he said.
“My main goal is to help everyone improve, which will only benefit us in the team season next fall.”

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Posted by on Jan 25 2007. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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