What a difference a year makes for the Owen team
In head coach Chris Barcklow’s first season's last year, the Owen Warlassies tennis team finished 4-4 (6-8 overall) in the Western Highlands Conference.
With largely the same roster the Warlassies are heading into the final two matches of the 2016 season with a chance to finish near the top of their conference.
On Thursday, Oct. 6, Owen hosts last year’s conference champion Hendersonville, undefeated against conference foes in 2015. That year the Bearcats handed the Warlassies a 9-0 loss at home and an 8-1 loss in Hendersonville.
This year Barcklow said his team had improved “big time” in its first meeting with Hendersonville on Sept. 20.
“Last year they beat us pretty bad,” he said. “This year they beat us 5-4, and that was kind of a heart-breaker there.”
However, the match let Barcklow know that his team is trending upward.
“We definitely competed a lot better,” he said. “We had the expectation to win the conference and we still do if we beat them the next time we meet. Things are going in the right direction.”
The Warlassies were 2-4 when they opened conference play on the road against Avery on Sept. 13 with an 8-1 win. That victory helped set the tone in conference play for Owen.
“Last year our team was all ninth and 10th graders,” Barcklow said. “Now these girls have gotten older and have another year under their belt. We’ve also added some nice younger players.”
Freshman Camryn Bolick has been one of the keys to the team’s success this year. Alternating between the third and fourth position in the lineup, she has managed to compile a winning record.
"She won a very impressive match against Hendersonville," Barcklow said. "She's been a great addition."
The Warlassies' first and second spots this season have been consistently filled by Jaiden Tweed and Ashley Valencia, an athletic duo who began playing tennis a year ago.
"They just started last year, which is remarkable," Barcklow said. "But their athleticism has really allowed them to improve and play competitively against other teams' first and second players."
The Warlassies have been most impressive in doubles action, according to the coach.
"We seem to really excel in doubles matches," he said. "The girls have great chemistry, so we have a tendency to hang with opponents through singles matches and close it out during doubles."
Finishing strong in doubles matches earned the Warlassies their second win of the season against Avery - a team that defeated Owen twice last year - on Sept. 29. Tweed and Valencia won a close match while Bolick and Madison Devan came out on top 8-2.
"Everyone played hard," Barcklow said of his team's effort against Avery.
The home victory brought Owen's overall record to 6-6 on the season (4-1 in conference) with matches against Polk and Hendersonville on Oct. 4 and 6 respectively (results not available as of press deadline).
"The Hendersonville match will be big for us, but we can't overlook Polk because they gave us a competitive match at home a few weeks ago," Barcklow said. "But we set the goal to win the conference, and if we're going to do that we'll need to win out."
The Warlassies' match against Hendersonville will be their final regular season home match of the year. The conference tournament is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 13.