COVINGTON, Ga. — After graduating most of her experienced players in 2018, Alcovy tennis coach Marcia Watkins is in the process of rebuilding her team and preparing it for the Region 3-AAAAAA tournament all while welcoming a new co-coach.
Partnered by first-year boys’ coach Matt Keuler Watkins has returned to the court for her 13th season of Alcovy Tigers tennis.
This season the teams are composed of mostly freshman and sophomores who have been involved in sports but have little to no experience in tennis.
“It’s a struggle this year with the rebuilding of the team,” Watkins said. “We had to start from scratch. We lost five seniors last year and a junior who didn’t come back due to needing to focus because of AP classes and such things, and that was a big hit.”
Now, eight games into the season, Watkins is seeing some improvement from the players and even some success on the court. Most of this is stemming from standout Bria Simmons, a freshman who plays singles.
“We have one experienced ninth grader playing singles for us,” Watkins said. “She’s been playing tennis since she was 5 years old and I see some great potential in her and great things coming from her in the near future.”
Simmons came to Alcovy and played with the JV girls last year as an eighth grader to get a feel for the court and for playing on the high school level.
“It was really fun to come out and play last year, and I was able to kind of prepare more for this year,” Simmons said. “And this year I’ve been playing and winning my matches.”
Simmons is excited for her four years on the court and has goals to play the game in college.
“We’re going to regionals (this year) and I hope one year we’ll even win,” Simmons said. “And then I’m going to try and get a tennis scholarship to Spellman University. So many scholarships go untouched when it comes to tennis and I’m going for them.”
When it comes to the boys, Watkins and Keuler share the load. Some of their standouts include Michael Adams and Jordyn Devers.
Adams is a senior playing singles and enjoying his last season playing the game at high school before he moves on to college at Kennesaw State upon graduation. Devers is a sophomore who is showing great potential for his experience level.
“Michael Adams is our number one singles and is very impressive,” Keuler said. “He’s been very good this year on and off the court. He’s a multi-sport athlete here at Alcovy, is going to be attending Kennesaw State shortly and is a silent leader for both the girls’ and boys’ teams.
After finding a love for the game through his eighth grade PE coach, Adams has played for all four years of his high school career.
This has allowed him to work with the sport in the spring and train year-round while also playing football. He has progressed a lot and is widely considered Alcovy’s best player.
He has also moved through positions and settled into singles after coming to the realization that being able to be a lone wolf is his niche in the game.
“Tennis is a more fit sport for me because everything is on me, I don’t have to rely on anybody and I can train and grow myself,” Adams said. “Over the years I’ve learned to love that about the game. I’ve improved my fast forehand and serves which have gotten me a couple of aces during the season.”
Adams has been a helper to Keuler in the coach’s first season with the program. Kueler utilizes Adams’ expertise, but also seeks to bring new tactics from his background in other sports into the picture.
“I played tennis in high school, but I also played football, baseball and basketball,” Keuler said. “I also have some experience in the weight room, and that I’m trying to include in the program.”
While weight lifting perhaps isn’t the first thing one thinks of in training for tennis, Keuler is working with a lot of multi-talented athletes and is trying to help them shift their skills to fit the game.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of boys in the program have played multiple sports, so I’m trying to take that athleticism and gear it toward this particular sport, ”Keuler explained. “A lot of them are first-comers to the particular sport, so I’m getting them in the weight room to help develop their foot speed, do agility drills, develop hand-eye coordination.”
Transitioning from football, basketball, baseball,-and in the girls' cases- cheerleading, is proving to be a difficult task but the Tigers are stepping up and ready to show their stripes this season.