Bulletin Staff Report
ABILENE — The Howard Payne Lady Jackets and Yellow Jackets competed Saturday in the American Southwest Conference Individual Tennis Championships at McMurry University.
The Lady Jackets excelled in singles play where Laci Fitzgearld won the No. 4 draw, Keeley Brown won the No. 2 consolation title, and Kayla Smith and Schuele Batenhorst reached the championship semifinals in the No. 1 and No. 3 draws, respectively.
“The women’s team did well and proved, once again, they should do well in conference play,” said HPU head coach Sally Brown. “These ladies are very young, as we are playing with freshmen and sophomores, but played tough mentally and physically. We have a great base to build on and should be able to do great things down the road.”
The Yellow Jackets’ greatest success also came during singles play. Jerrett Dawson made it to the finals of the No. 9 draw, Jordan Gilbreath captured the No. 7 consolation title and Jeff Toyne advanced to the semifinals of the No. 5 consolation draw.
“The men’s flights were very strong this year from top to bottom,” Brown said. “There seems to be a tremendous amount of talent as the coaches in the conference continue to recruit strong players. The men played hard and gave everything they had and competed well. We know what we need to work on and as we continue to get more match experience, we should get tougher mentally and physically.”
Neither the Yellow Jackets or Lady Jackets picked up a win in doubles competition.
“We haven’t had a lot of time to work on doubles and it exposed some of our weaknesses,” Brown said. “We are still trying to find the right combinations, so that also played a factor as well. I look for us to get much stronger in this area as we go through this season and into the spring. We have some strong players and as they gain experience at the college level, we should see some significant improvement on both sides.”