PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry lost its top tennis player, but returns four starters this year.
The Lady Cardinals lost top seed Lauren Thompson and sixth seed Hannah Haynes to graduation.
However, a group of young players looks poised for a good season.
Brooke Tickle was the second seed last year and honorable mention on the all-conference team. She would look to be the heir apparent for the top spot, but she has two younger players scrapping for the position.
Haley Manuel, a junior, earned all-conference status as East’s third seed. She had the team’s highest winning percentage in singles matches last year.
However, both of them could be leap-frogged by sophomore Tiffany Grace King. As a freshman, she earned honorable mention and finished third in the conference doubles championship with Thompson.
King has come on strong and could challenge for one of the top spots, said new coach David Kidd. She has been working out hard and practicing with Stephen Collins at Avalon Tennis.
Kidd, who graduated from Surry Central and then East Carolina, has been coaching the boys’ tennis team at Pilot Mountain Middle. He becomes the fourth coach in as many years for the Cardinals.
“I think we look pretty good,” he said. “I’m really excited. The top three are playing well.”
The bottom half of the lineup will include one returning starter and a player’s younger sibling.
Haley’s younger sister, Mikayla Manuel, joins the team this year and is vying for a starting spot.
Returner Allie Hawks will probably hold the fourth spot, said Kidd, but the order could change as players challenge each other.
Michela Coppola played in Mount Airy’s preseason tournament and has a chance at a starting spot.
Also in the mix are Savannah Edwards, Sarah Gibson, Kaitlin Koons, Alayna Speer and Maddie Truell.
As for doubles, Kidd had Tickle and Haley Manuel together at Mount Airy’s event and liked what he saw. He isn’t sure yet what the other two teams will be.
The Cards open the season with three straight home dates.
On Monday, they host North Surry. Winston-Salem Prep comes to town on Tuesday, followed by Walkertown on Thursday, part of the new 1A Northwest Conference.