Despite a year full of adversity Ocean Springs maintained their championship form with a 4-3 victory over Northwest Rankin to claim its sixth straight Mississippi Class 6A State Championship. The Greyhounds showed incredible grit and determination in route to victory. For the second straight year Ocean Springs needed all seven matches to be crowned state champion.
It has been a year full of challenges for the Greyhounds who had to deal with several unexpected changes in their roster, and overcome inexperience to land their sixth title. In the end, coach Kathy Gendron made the right selections and found the correct words to motivate her players.
"This year was absolutely different," Gendron said in an interview for the Sun Herald. "I lost two of my boys’ players, one to home schooling and one moved. I had a lot of ninth grade boys move up. I feel like nobody thought we would make it this far much less win."
Among the Greyhounds who brought valuable points on board are Andre Bowie, with a 6-2, 7-5 in boys’ singles; No 2 boys doubles pair of Slay Wanger and Michael Phillips, with a comfortable 6-0, 6-2 victory, and Kate Weatherly who gained the girls singles point with a straightforward 6-2, 6-1 win.
While the players performed admirably on courts, watching them from the sidelines was a nerve-wracking experience Gendron.
"This was a very different, very stressful state championship win,” she concluded bluntly.
Besides winning the team event, Ocean Springs enjoyed yet another success in the Class 6A Doubles State Championship. For the second straight year, Amanda Kilduff and Olivia Nash beat teammates Sophie St. Amant and Kate Weatherly for the title. Kilduff and Nash finished the job in three entertaining sets 1-6, 6-3 6-3 to become Mississippi Class 6A Doubles State Champion.
The girls, who finished seventh in the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division in March, were delighted to capture another title.
"We've played together so much that we just know what the other one is going to do," said Kilduff. "We just flow with each other on the court. We know what's going on in the other's brains."
The victory was always going to be bittersweet, considering who was on the other side of the net.
“It's really hard playing teammates in any situation but you have to make the best of it and push through and that's what we did," Kilduff said.
Overall it felt like another day at the office for the Mississippi Class 6A State Champion. The consistency with which Ocean Springs adds title after title to its trophy cabinet deserves recognition and appreciation.
Coach Gendron hopes today’s triumph will inspire younger generation to perform with the same heart and dedication in the years to come.
"I think it will make the younger kids realize anything is possible if we work hard and prepare each year," she stated. "From the minute we get on the bus to go to practice to every match. They have to prepare year round to make our varsity team."