Head coach Harold Shepard sees a special trait in this year’s Pisgah girls tennis team. While the team loses some key contributors from a group that finished second in the WMAC last year, only losing conference matches to Hendersonville and going to the first round of the state titles, it also returns a good bit of experience and talent.
What stands out to Shepard about this bunch, however, is how hard the girls work.
“The work ethic is amazing, to state it simply,” Shepard said. “I thought that the group that graduated had a really strong work ethic. And they did, but the neat thing about it is they instilled it in the younger players. We’ve had kids playing tennis since February when it was warm enough to go outside and play and have been working really hard to get better.”
The players in this group learned that work ethic from last year’s seniors, and will look to instill it in the young players this year.
For Shepard and the Black Bears’ coaching staff, having players that committed is something that can be felt in the program for years to come. The team saw as many as 18, and no fewer than 13, participants at voluntary workouts over the summer, and could have as many as 25 trying out.
“Those are program builders,” Shepard said. “Every coach strives to have a group of kids like that, that will show others the way.
“When you do, you need to take advantage of it from a coaching standpoint. When kids buy in that strongly, it starts a wave reaction. It’s not a trickle down; it’s a wave. We’re experiencing that right now.”
This team has the potential to accomplish a lot. Senior Maeanna Norris returns from a duo (alongside the gradated Allie Fisher) that finished second in the region and fourth in the state last year. Norris leads a group of returners that also includes seniors Chole Medford and Chloe Paris and sophomore Gracyn Mills, along with a wave of newcomers that Shepard expects to “cause a stir.”
That group is certainly capable of competing in both the conference and in the postseason, something Shepard hopes to see them accomplish again. But, more than anything, his goal for these players is to help them grow, and prepare them for the next stage of their life, whatever that may include.
“Winning and losing, everybody judges it on that,” Shepard said. “It’s about having strong young ladies who are going to go out in the world and represent their family, their community and their school in a positive light. Our goal for this year is to make sure that when they leave, they are the strongest young ladies that they can be.”
Pisgah will open the 2019 season at home against Owen on Tuesday, Aug. 20.