by Hale Hughes
Woodville's new tennis coach Tyler Word is seeing a great start to his first year helming the tennis team. He has taken his tennis players to two events and has seen some promising starts and progress in what is sure to be a promising season for the Eagles this year.
The team traveled to Beaumont their first week at Lamar University with The Eagles were strongly represented in girls doubles with two teams. Brooke Byley and Emma Winchester won their first two matches and the Miranda twins, Yoselin and Miranda, ultimately taking the girls' doubles championship with a win over Kirbyville.
In girls' singles, it was Malaysia Williams winning her first two matches convincingly but falling in the semifinals to the eventual champion.
A.J. Worsley and Caleb Powell represented the boys side, and won their first two but lost in the semifinals in a close match. Eli Shirley and Trevor Vardeman won their first match and fell to the eventual champions by a score of 6-2, 6-3. In mixed doubles, it was the power pairing of Cameron Coker and Lyndsey Kinard, who competed in the higher division class 5A & 6A draw. Word said he felt like the competition they would face would serve them well preparing for what is sure to be a long season for the mixed doubles pair. The Kinard/Coker duo competed in the championship match, but being edged by the narrowest of margins.
Fast forward one week and it was the same location, Lamar University, but this time it was for the Vidor Invitational. The Eagles did not disappoint. Woodville came back netting big results. Coker and Kinard answered the call and won the tournament by defeating the same team from Kirbyville that they played in the final during the first week. Kinard/Coker came out firing with stellar play and dominated the match 6-3, 6-3. "We didn't give them a whole lot of second chance balls," Word commented. Kinard/Coker simply served better and played more loose according to Word. Thier return percentage was much higher than the previous week and it was evident that they wanted this win. "They were simply determined," Word stated.
"We had a bit of a target on our back," said Word following the first week's results. "A couple of our teams returned this week as number one seeds in their brackets."
"We know pretty much who we are going to be challenged by locally," said Word. "Kirbyville returns a mixed doubles team who placed third in regionals last year and they will likely be our strongest competition that we face before state," according to Word.
When asked what they practiced between the two meets, Word said, "We worked on our net game heavily. We concentrated on being much more aggressive and poaching more at the net. I wanted to see them get more cross court shots in and take those opportunities to end the points quickly and keep the opponents on their heels."
Word also spoke highly of Malaysia Williams in her singles play. "She's really come out and worked hard to improve her game. She comes early and stays late and is always looking for ways to improve." He continued, "I was proud to see her win the matches she did last week and I was especially happy to see her go up against last week's tournament winner from Kountze and beat her this week. The sky's the limit for her. She's just a sophomore and she is already catching people's eyes when she plays."
Word said that the first year has been transitional, but said the former Coach Sergio Ramos set the bar and "I'm just picking up the torch where Ramos left it. He is very passionate about tennis and that is one thing we both have in common. I want to make sure the tennis legacy remains strong in this community. We may have different strategies and approaches to the game, as most coaches do, but our passion for this sport is evident. We both believe in the mantra 'Work Hard; Results Follow.'" Word said he has 23 kids in his tennis program from freshmen to seniors and it's about a 50/50 split between boys and girls. Word has high goals and wants his Eagles to take district and advance to both the regional and state tournaments this year. He said the first trip to the state tennis meet can be overwhelming to some players and many times it takes return trips to state to secure those elusive state championships. "They're hard to get," said Word. "I hope we can make a return trip this year (with Coker) and win state in mixed doubles and I think we have a real chance to make that happen, but it will require a great deal of focus and work, but I think our players are up to the task this year."