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When one thinks about the more solid programs in girls tennis, one's mind tends to wander toward the likes of Jefferson Forest and E.C. Glass.
And with good reason. Those two teams have dominated district play for the longest of times.
But, the Lady Cavs and Hilltoppers need to keep an eye on their rear-view mirrors. There's a crew closing in on them, and that crew hails from Liberty High School.
The Minettes are in the process of wrapping up another very good season.
Liberty sewed up third place in the Seminole District, behind said JF and Glass. The Minettes are also owners of the top seed in Conference 30. How the team fares in the conference (which includes Brookville, Heritage, Rustburg and Tunstall) is what matters. You punch a ticket to regional play via the conference tourney.
That top seeding doesn't come from luck of the draw. It comes from success and hard work. Liberty has seen much of both this year.
The team has posted a 9-4 record. While all four of its losses came to JF and Glass, all nine wins have been overwhelming. The Minettes posted 9-0 blankings over Staunton River, Rustburg (twice), Heritage and Brookville.
Their closest win was a white-knuckle 7-2 pasting of the Bees.
"I am so blessed to have such a phenomenal group of young ladies who work so hard to be successful both on the court and off," said Head Coach Kelly Miller. "We have been building the tennis program at LHS for several years."
Miller attributes all of the team's success to the attitude of her players and their desire to improve.
"We have an extremely close team," added Miller. "They care about one another and want to see everyone do their best. I cannot say enough about their sportsmanship and how well they represent Liberty High School when they travel to play other teams.
"A coach could not ask for a better team."
The numbers aren't too shabby, either. Every player has a winning record, with #1 player Carly Richardson standing at 8-4. #2 Morgan Karnes has the same mark, while #3 Emily Carroll leads the team with a record of 10-3.
#4 Leanna Richardson is 9-4, while #5 Michelle Cox and #6 Anna Tinsley stand 7-5 and 7-4, respectively.
The team's cohesiveness is really evident in the realm of doubles play. The #1 team of Carly Richardson and Karnes stands an impressive 11-2. Carroll and Leanna Richardson aren't far behind, at 9-4. The third team, of Cox and Whitney, Vincent also stands 9-4.
While Miller is certainly enamored of her charges, the feeling seems mutual. "The reason we succeed is because we follow after the example of our coach," said Carly Richardson. "She encourages us to be the best person and player we can be...We know at times we may fail, at other times succeed, but it is the perseverance that keeps us going strong."
But, there has to be more than just respect and perseverance. "Our dedication is why we work so well as a team. It has allowed us to have such an awesome and successful season," added Cox. "When we practice, we practice our hardest."
Karnes chimed in, stating, "We play every point like it is our last. Because we have played together so long we know each others' strengths and weaknesses. We encourage and support each other in everything we do."
All of that supportiveness, effort and drive have come together to make this Liberty team one of the best in a long time.
Indeed, it's the kind of team that will have one thinking of it when one thinks of those solid programs.