BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON — The Lady Rams tennis team will be missing some of its firepower from a season ago as their take the courts this year.
Both Marisa Uhls and Katie Wall advanced to the state finals a season ago but are now at Rend Lake College.
Jade Knox moves into the top singles position vacated by Uhls. Mt. Vernon coach Randy Knox said the junior worked hard in the summer to improve her skills ahead of the fall season. As a sophomore, Knox was the top No. 2 singles player in the South Seven Conference and was named to the all-conference team.
“She really wanted to be No. 1, and she worked at it this summer and put in a lot of practice time and went to a tennis camp and went to some tournaments,” Randy Knox said.
Jade Knox wasn't the only player to compete this summer. Coach Randy Knox added that several other players gained experience through the junior tennis program.
“It works out well,” Knox said. “It goes right into the fall season for the girls. I think we have most everyone, most of the players on the team participating in the summer program so that was real good experience for them in doing that.”
Freshman Catie Raney will be the team's No. 2 player. Knox said Raney won't be intimated by making the move straight to varsity as an incoming freshman because of her experience with the junior tennis team this summer.
“We just played her in the 18 and under program this year because we wanted her to get ready for high school tennis,” Knox said. “She could have played in the 14 and under, but we didn't want to play her there and thought it would be more to her advantage to just play high school girls so she would feel comfortable coming into that.”
Shubhika Jain makes a big jump as well. The sophomore played junior varsity a season ago as a freshman. This year she competes in the No. 3 slot.
“She's very consistent, showed a lot of improvement so we're pleased with her,” Knox said.
Gauri Kaushel will be the team's No. 4 player. She was in the No. 5 spot as a junior.
Amanda Scott another senior will be the team's No. 5. A pair of juniors – Liz Hurst and Abagail Winkler could both contribute for the Lady Rams at No. 6. Knox said he likes having a potential of seven players who can play on the varsity squad.
I feel good about the group,” Knox said. “They work hard. Their strength is they're consistent and they'll get a lot of balls back. They'll make the other team beat them. They won't beat themselves very often.”
Knox added that Centralia, who returns all of its top players, would be strong this season along with Carbondale. Mt. Vernon opened the season Monday against the Lady Terriers. Knox added that the matchup would test his team immediately.
“It will let them know exactly where they're at,” Knox said. “It will help us know what we need to work on.
“It will give us a good idea of where we stand with them.”
Last year Mt. Vernon finished second in the South Seven Conference and was 9-3 overall.