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Senior leader boosts Jennings County tennis team

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Jennings County senior tennis player Brittany Lykins never stops teaching or learning.

When classmate Vicky Smith tore her ACL and meniscus in the offseason, Lykins faced the daunting task of being the sole senior player on the squad.

“I knew I’d have to step up as a leader this year,” Lykins said. “But I knew I’d have Vicky around to help me lead the team. When she went down, it got a lot harder for me.”

New girls tennis coach Deron Brown knew that it would be a tough year for Lykins even before he met her.

“She’s the only one on the team who played on the varsity team last season,” Brown said. “When I flipped through former coach Lisa Hearne’s scorebooks from last season, I noticed that all the other girls on varsity had graduated.”

Once he met Lykins, Brown knew she could help him guide the team to success.

“She’s a great young lady with some great leadership qualities,” Brown said. “At first, we were a little shy around each other since we hadn’t met before I became the head coach, but we like to tease each other now.”

Lykins is part of the No. 1 doubles duo, along with her younger sister, Elaine Lykins. She also is helping the Panthers’ No. 2 singles player, sophomore Avis McGovern, develop her       potential.

“McGovern and I started playing tennis together last summer,” Brittany Lykins said. “She’d played softball

in the spring, but she told me wanted to play tennis instead.”

Lykins has taught McGovern some of the basics.

“I had to teach her how to grip the racket properly and how to swing it higher,” Lykins said. “When she swung it higher, she got more topspin on the ball and her forehand looked more natural. She used to swing down, like a softball swing.”

Lykins is an ideal leader for the young Panthers because she has

experience as a physical education student teacher at Sand Creek Elementary School. Her mentor is Kate Gray, the Panthers’ girls soccer coach. Gray coached her on the soccer field, but Gray had no idea she would be a teaching mentor for her. Lykins plans to major in education at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho.

“I was shocked when I was asked to be her mentor,” Gray said. “I had no idea she wanted to be a physical education teacher and that she wanted to spend some time exploring a world that I think is amazing. I couldn’t be more excited for her to take the path of education.”

As part of her preparation, Lykins sometimes has to create lessons or activities for children.

“February was American Heart Awareness Month,” she said. “I came up with an activity that simulated the blood flowing through the heart. I’ve enjoyed being around the kids, and I’ve been thinking more about being a classroom teacher.”

On the tennis court, she is focused on developing chemistry with her new doubles partner and sister. This season is their first experience playing together, so the sisters still are learning how to complement each other.

“During an early-season match against Scottsburg, we played terribly in the first set,” Brittany Lykins said. “Then, we played great in the second set. I don’t know what happened. I have more confidence in my backhand this season, and I’ve been working on my net play. Our goal is to improve every match. As a team, I think we all played timidly at first. But we’ve had more experience and are ready to face our opponents.”

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