Mississippi College’s Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams kick off their spring season on Monday, Feb. 12. The teams will make a short trip to Jackson to take on the Jackson State University Tigers for their first matches of the year.
David Boteler is getting ready to enter his 21st season as head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Mississippi College. Coach Boteler has experience in both Division II and Division III, as he has lead the Choctaws throughout the years in transition. Boteler managed to take his teams to the Gulf South Conference Championship last season, just a few years after moving up from Division III to Division II in 2014.
One thing MC’s tennis program isn’t lacking this year: leadership. Both the men’s and women’s rosters are packed full of seniors. On the men’s team there are 7 seniors, while 5 of the women as ready to take on their senior seasons. Two of those upperclassmen are Katie Reid and Sanders Barrick.
“It’s different this year, it’s my last one,” Reid said. P and workouts have been the same as usual as they prepare for the upcoming season, but the difference is Reid’s mindset going into the season as a senior. Reid is telling herself to “give it your all” as she awaits her last go-around as a part of the Choctaw team. One of her personal goals for this season is to be able to encourage the team. “We have really good recruits this year, and we’re going to be a really good team, so I want to be able to encourage and be there for them.”
As far as overall team goals, Reid says that the biggest focus for the Lady Choctaws is to be able to be one of the best teams in the GSC by the end of the season. “I’m expecting us to be towards the top,” Reid said.
The senior leadership role is very important for Reid. “A lot of us are seniors, we’ve been there, and we’re experienced,” she said. As she gets ready to enter her fourth and final season as a Choctaw, Reid says her favorite part about being a part of the team are the road trips. “The uniqueness of having a family away from home, that’s been the best part for me.”
Another Choctaw senior is Sanders Barrick. Barrick came to Mississippi College as a freshman just three and a half years ago, having grown up with a family of tennis players and athletes. “My brother played tennis, my mom played tennis, my dad was a basketball player, and they were all pretty much college athletes.” Being the youngest in his family, Barrick says finishing up his final season at MC means a lot. “It’s like an ending of a book for my family,” the senior said.
“It’s gone by fast,” Barrick said of the arrival of his senior season. “I remember walking in here and talking to Coach about attending school here, fast forwarding to now, I’ve loved every bit of it.”
As far as preparing for this season, Barrick feels that the coaches have prepared him and the rest of the players for the start of the season by having two-hour practices each day along with strength and conditioning throughout the week. Barrick also mentioned the importance of the guys working out on their own time as well. “We all work our hardest, and that’s how we prepare.”
Staying in the doubles line-up and just simply staying healthy are two of Barrick’s personal goals for the year. Like the women’s team, the men are working toward making an appearance in the GSC Conference Championship again this year.
In 2017, the women made it to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, while the men were able to push through to the semi-finals. “It all depends on conference play, and where we finish. The top 8 teams make the playoffs,” Coach Boteler said. Last year, both the men and women finished fourth in the conference.
As for the seniors on the team, Coach Boteler says “it’s always kind of bittersweet.” Boteler explained that there is excitement around bringing new players in, though. “We have 3 new girls this year, which will give us the most depth we’ve had.”
Coach Boteler has high expectations for both teams this year. He says the ultimate goal for the men and women this season is to finish top 2 in the GSC. “It’s a tough conference.”
With key contributors returning from last year, both the Men’s and Women’s teams should be able to clinch spots in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Both Choctaw teams face their first conference rival, the West Alabama Tigers at home on Feb. 28.
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