The Albertville High School tennis program will host the 2019 Marshall County Tournament on Thursday.
It’s Brindlee Mountain’s year in the county tournament rotation, but the Lions don’t have a tennis program. Former Douglas head coach Stephanie Wisener, director of federal programs for the Marshall County Schools, will serve as tournament director.
Guntersville’s boys and Douglas’ girls are the defending county champions.
The Albertville teams went undefeated in regular-season matches against their county rivals. Overall, the AHS boys are 9-3 while the girls are 9-4.
“I think a lot of it sort of boils down to who comes ready to play and what kind of mental game they bring into it and how much they want it,” Albertville boys head coach Beth Nixon said of the key factors to county tournament success.
Youth dominates the Aggie boys roster. Their top six in singles play features sophomore Lane Young at No. 1, eighth-grader Curtis Richey at No. 2, seventh-grader Alex Smith at No. 3, freshman Drew Shankles at No. 4, seventh-grader Griffin Nixon at No. 5 and seventh-grader Sam Barclift at No. 6.
Richey and Barclift are undefeated in Marshall County play.
“I know that we’ve got a competitive group of boys,” Nixon said. “I knew it might be tough for them, but they’ve really come in and showed out for us. I feel like they’ve stepped it up.
“Even though we have a lot of young players, they’ve really done a great job with their season this year. They’re extremely competitive, and that says a lot for the future of Aggie tennis to me.”
The Albertville girls have been forced to deal with the loss of No. 1 singles player Jacky Nieto, a junior sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.
Her sister, sophomore Nataly Aguilar, ascended from No. 2 to fill her spot in the lineup.
“Nataly moved up to No. 1, and Madison Lewis, who has had some injuries, and Caroline Thomas have stepped in to kind of fill that void at the No. 2 spot,” AHS girls head coach Jeanne Rains said.
Thomas is a freshman and Lewis a junior. Both girls have never played tennis before.
Sophomore Olivia Adams at No. 3, junior Lexi Wise at No. 4, eighth-grader Lauren Waldrep at No. 5 and freshman Campbell Priest at No. 6 complete Albertville’s singles lineup.
Priest is unbeaten against county opponents.
There are 23 girls and 15 boys in the Aggie program this year but none of them are seniors. Due to the number of players, Albertville added a junior varsity team last year.
The Aggie JV girls are unbeaten this season. Their coach is Barresa Adams.
Rains and Nixon share the coaching duties for the varsity teams despite their official titles.
“It takes all of us,” Nixon said. “We have two really good volunteer coaches that help us, and I feel like we work collaboratively to come together for this team.”
Albertville’s volunteer coaches are Patrick Smith and Ian Wisener.
Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame member Greg Henderson’s impact on the program remains strong, although he isn’t actively coaching this season.
“Coach Henderson built our tennis program over many years, and we are just doing everything we can to keep things going and to make Albertville proud,” Nixon said.
Rains expressed gratitude on behalf of the coaches and players for the opportunity to practice and play matches at home this year, because the rest of the Albertville Recreation Complex, except for two fields, is closed for construction.
“Originally, we were only going to be allowed to practice at the courts and play all our matches on the road,” Rains said. “The city and the architect and the general contractor of the new park really worked with us and allowed us to have matches there as well.
“There were a couple of things they were unsure of, but we had a couple of meetings and figured out we could have matches there as well, which was huge for our program. It costs a lot to travel and it’s time consuming.”