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Picayune tennis hoping to learn from first match

Picayune’s Maroon Tide tennis team has been focusing on fundamentals this offseason as the athletes prepare for their first matches set to take place this week.

There are 16 members of the squad, but only four are veterans from last year when the team’s season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The large influx of new players has led to a restart of sorts, with athletes spending the offseason hours focusing on understanding the basics of the game.

“It’s almost like starting all over again. The ones who have played before have a leg up, but with the season being dead and flat last year it was a mess. We’re having to work on skills, fundamentals, just learning the game. There are a few who are athletic, but their racket skills and footwork have a lot of ground to make up. The kids are having to learn a lot,” Head Coach Chris Wise said.

The learning curve is steep, and the team’s overall inexperience means several athletes will participate in a competitive match for the first time when Picayune takes on Biloxi Feb. 22.

However, even with the process being arduous at times, Wise said his athletes have been happy just to be back on the court.

“They’re really excited. I think the kids, even back in the summer, were eating it up, loving it and having fun. With this sport, the camaraderie is tremendous and the kids are very much in the enjoyment of each other’s company and the enjoyment of playing the game,” Wise said.

The newly paved tennis courts at Friendship Park where the team practices have made the whole process of preparing for a season much easier.

Instead of worrying about losing their footing, players can instead focus on honing their skills and improving every day.

“We’re focusing on footwork, making sure they’ve chosen the proper swing technique. Just fundamentals. We’re trying to improve because, even with the experienced players, after lying dormant for so long you lose those skills. So we’ve been working on that and with the newer ones just teaching them the game,” Wise said.

Biloxi has a talented team and will pose a challenge for Picayune when the two groups face off Monday.

The matchup itself will serve not only as a test to see where the athletes’ progress is, but also a chance for new players to gain experience in a competitive environment.

“Biloxi is going to be good. We’ll get in there and do the best we can, and get some playing experience. Some of kids may be here, some may not because of quarantine, so that’s going to be a challenge,” Wise said.