Brownwood holds first workouts with trip to San Angelo Lake View awaiting at week's end

Following a 13-7 record in 2016 and second-place district finish behind perennial state powerhouse Abilene Wylie, the Brownwood High tennis team is looking to close the gap in 2017. And the Lions and Lady Lions won’t have to wait long to see what types of strides they’ve made since October.

Brownwood held its first practices of the season Tuesday, and on Friday will venture to San Angelo Lake View for the first of 15 non-district matches.

“We have our voluntary workouts over the summer, so most of the players aren’t starting cold,” Brownwood High tennis head coach Mark Davis said Monday evening’s practice. “Lake View is always a good opponent for us. They’re a 5A school that we play every year, and generally we’ve beat them. They have a new coach in his second year over there and he knows what he’s doing. Lake View is getting tougher and tougher and I don’t think it will be very easy anymore. It should be a good workout and we’ll play a lot of players. We’ll play some extra matches, too, so we can see what some of these younger kids can do under pressure.”

The Lady Lions bring back the most experience from last season, led by Kendra Renfroe and Piper Barberie, among others. For the Lions, Jeremy Roberson and Gabriel Hinojosa are the two most experienced players on the roster. Both the boys and girls, however, should receive an influx of talent from underclassmen vying for playing time.

“I’m expecting good things to happen,” Davis said. “We have a bunch of returning starters on the ladies side, while the guys are going to be rebuilding a little bit. We have a strong freshman group coming in on the girls side and a couple of guys that could also make an impact.”

Davis opted not to disclose which new faces could appear in the top six by the time district starts, instead choosing to see how the matches play out before making the call.

“The freshman group reminds me of three or four years ago, a group that came in and stayed together all through their high school years,” Davis said. “This group enjoys each other and enjoys being competitive with each other. They are definitely going to help us this year and for years to come.”

After facing Lake View, Brownwood will tangle with Early twice (Aug. 26 and Sept. 14), Killeen High twice (Aug. 9 and Sept. 14), Lake View again (Aug. 26), Graham (Aug. 8), Gatesville (Aug. 17), Iowa Park (Aug. 19), Fredericksburg (Aug. 24), Lampasas (Aug. 31), Copperas Cove (Sept. 2) and Fort Stockton (Sept. 30) before district action commences.

“We try to run a fairly tough schedule against a lot of Class 5A and 6A teams,” Davis said. “We have a couple of matches against some 3A and 4As, but mostly we’re trying to get some tough competition. I’m not all that concerned about team wins and losses, but I sure would like to find out who’s going to stand up and be there when we play our first district match. We want to find that out as soon as we can, and we should have plenty of opportunities to do that.”

District 5-4A tennis action begins Sept. 21 against Snyder followed by a Sept. 28 date with Big Spring, an Oct. 5 encounter with Sweetwater and the Oct. 12 match against Abilene Wylie, which will likely decide the district champion.

“We’re better than we’ve been in the past and Wylie is not quite as strong, so we feel like we’re drawing closer to them,” Davis said. “But it’s going to take a lot of work to handle them in district play. The rest of the district, I think if we get solid work in these pre-district matches we shouldn’t have much of a problem with these other teams. Most of teams lost their better players and we didn’t lose much, especially on the girls side.”

Brownwood’s first home match is 4 p.m. Tuesday when Graham visits, followed by a 4 p.m. Wednesday home contest against Killeen High.