LAPEL — Madison County tournament time is a test for area teams, and for the Lapel girls tennis team, it’s a big test every year.

Its opening match of the season is against Madison Grant in the first round of play in the tournament. While the date of opening play is the same, the Bulldogs have a new coach this year after the previous coach Meg Fields moved away.

Coach Kandi Martin isn’t new coaching at Lapel, but it’s been a few years. She coached in the ‘90s and decided to make a return.

“My children are old enough now for Mom to take on some new things,” Martin said.

She teaches at the middle school and has helped with the co-ed tennis team there. Plus, her daughter Grace is a junior on the Bulldog team.

The Bulldogs have several players up from the junior varsity team as well as veterans to lead the team this year. Lapel finished the regular season last year at 12-3 and lost to rival Frankton in the first round of sectional play.

Moving up to No.1 singles from No. 2 is junior Kerith Renihan.

Renihan was the lone winner in the sectional loss to the Eagles in the 2021 season and brings both varsity experience and smart play to the Bulldogs. Another player with varsity experience is senior Morgan Erwin who will step into the No. 2 singles slot, and freshman Gracie Frazier will debut her high school career at No. 3 singles.

For doubles, the current pairing of senior Chloe Renihan and junior Gracie Lyons are slotted for No. 1 doubles, while senior Georgia Manning and junior Grace Martin will be the No. 2 doubles teams.

“Our No. 1 doubles played together last year and were able to gel and worked well together,” Coach Martin said.

As the season progresses and the experience and skills grow, Coach Martin said she believes there will be some challenges for slots.

Her game plan this year is not so much a numbers game but rather the team experience.

“I want to be concerned with character building and help the girls play with good character. I want to focus on the heart of the team,” Coach Martin said.

She said she thinks some of the Bulldogs could play at the next level if they choose, and talking up the sport in the middle school is an important part of the continued success of the Bulldog program.

While their first match is a big one, the Bulldogs are playing host, and the match begins at 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 13.

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