The Jennings County tennis team recently concluded a successful 11-9 season, reaching the sectional championship match against Greensburg.
“We played a lot better than some people expected us to play this season,” sophomore singles player Tod Brown said. “We had a pair of freshmen who were good doubles players, Adam Jackson and Owen Land.”
Jackson and Land initially began the season as the No. 2 doubles tandem. By the end of the season, however, Jackson was playing No. 1 doubles with Tyler Clerkin while Land was paired with Colton Pifer at the No. 2 position.
The new lineup helped the Panthers sweep Southwestern (Hanover) to reach the sectional championship match. Jackson and Clerkin won their match 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 while Land and Pifer dominated, 6-1, 6-0.
“I thought Pifer and Land would give us a more aggressive presence at the net,” head coach Deron Brown said. “That’s exactly what they did. Our communication really improved during the season, especially at No. 2 doubles. I could see (the No. 2 doubles tandem) getting more comfortable with each other the more they played together. Communication is important in doubles. If you don’t talk, you can get burned.”
The pair often communicated on the court using subtle hand signals.
“When one of them was at the net and the other was at the back of the court, the person at the net would held up one finger if he was staying at the net and two fingers if he was going crosscourt after the serve,” Tod Brown said.
Tod Brown improved his game this season because his tennis coach was his father.
“He was a lot tougher on me than he was on the other players,” Tod Brown said. “He knew how I was capable of playing, and he wouldn’t let me off the hook.”
Tod Brown also developed a solid second serve during the season.
“When my first serve fails, I use my kick serve,” he said. “I toss the ball higher behind my head so that it will kick away from an opponent. It’s helped with my accuracy because I can usually put in the service box.”
Practicing with No. 1 singles player Bryson Mills helped Tod Brown hone his game even more.
Mills placed second in the Columbus city tournament last summer, and he has been the team’s most consistent player during the last two seasons.
“When I played (Mills) in practice, he was so good at placing the ball where he wanted to and keeping it in play,” Tod Brown said. “At the beginning of the year, I played differently whenever I was frustrated. I didn’t hit the ball where it needed to go, and I didn’t hit it as hard. I’m more patient and consistent now. Whenever I played Bryson, I had to hope that I’d hit it hard whenever he made a mistake.”
Deron Brown hopes to improve competition for the top two singles positions on the team next season by recruiting athletes from other sports, especially basketball. He wants his team to be driven and challenged internally.
“I’m not afraid to recruit athletes for tennis,” he said. “I want to bring in people who will challenge their teammates to improve. If guys don’t want to improve and they just want to show up, they can spend their time doing something else. I anticipate some new blood next season.”