The Graham tennis team enters the fall season looking to improve on last year's fourth place district finish that removed them from the area tournament.
The boys return three of their top four players in sophomores Dallas Elmore and Marcus Montfort and junior Alex Smith, a triple threat that Head Coach Matt Birdwell will look to for leadership come fall.
“I want to see them be leaders to those guys coming up, and also they're gonna have to do their stuff and compete,” Birdwell said. “Set an example in the classroom and outside the classroom. Last year they were just finding out things. Now they should know how everything works.”
Measured through aggregate scores, the fall season focuses on team rather than individual competition. Teams compete in games consisting of 19 matches, with the first team to claim 10 matches winning. Each match has three boys and three girls double matches, six girls and six boys singles matches and a mixed doubles match.
This means the Steers and Lady Blues will have plenty of opportunities to work on their individual skills for the spring.
Last spring, Smith advanced to the regional tournament in doubles with Victoria Ashley. Elmore just missed regionals, finishing third in doubles play and Montfort placed fourth individually.
The girls team, however, graduated Ashley, the girls' lone regional qualifier last year, leaving senior Amber Langworthy as the top athlete.
Incoming freshman Isabelle Ertl will most likely be second behind Langworthy, Birdwell said.
Read the full story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.