Future appears bright for MHS tennis

Returnees improve over summer, are joined by talented freshman class

Patty Hullett
Mirror correspondent
Midlothian High School boys' doubles tennis players (in foreground) take on Ennis during a fall team match last week.

The Midlothian High School tennis team is “coachable and ready to compete this season.”

That’s what ninth-year head coach Sam Wrinkle said of his 2021 fall tennis team a few days ago. He also comments, “I have been proud to see how many of my tennis kids have improved this off-season. They have really put in the work over the summer.

“My assistant coach Bret Ratzlaff and myself have scheduled many tough preseason matches over the past few weeks. I think it’s great to raise the level of the kids’ play and really give them a good idea of what they need to improve on. We have such a great group this year that works extremely hard and always seems ready to make adjustments if necessary.”

The varsity Panthers are returning all but one boy and one girl from last year’s squad. So, the coaches feel they have a good mixture of experience and a lot of freshmen from last year that will be definitely contributing this year. In addition, they have a great freshman class all around.

Coach Wrinkle also comments, “A big surprise for us so far has been how our new freshman Kaydence Phillips has worked this summer and showed up and won a lot of preseason matches for us. We are very excited about her and her strong work ethic. We also have several boys that have spent 3 years with us, but they have had no previous varsity experience, but they have worked their butts off to earn a spot on the team this season. Kids like Nathan Varghese and Kevin Pena have been competing and winning at their respective spots, so we are very pleased as their coaches.”

When asked about their competition in their fall tennis district, Wrinkle confides, “Our Panthers are always in the mix. We all (Ennis, Corsicana, and Midlothian) are consistent, fierce competitors every year. That is no secret. All three of these teams are usually the top 3 to watch out for. It’s going to be a tough dog fight, just like it is almost every year in our division.”

In preseason, the varsity MHS netters are 1-4 so far. However, the one quality win was over a gritty Tyler High (formerly John Tyler) team and their losses were at the hands of some very good 5A teams. In fact, the Panthers lost in a close match to No. 4 Kaufman and a loss to a top-5 Frisco Lebanon Trail team. The coaches feel their record is what it is, but seeing the kids pushing some really good teams at individual spots is solidly a confidence booster – even in defeat.

The varsity roster seniors for this year are: Nathan Varghese, Camdon Birdwell (regional qualifier 2021), Caelan Weiss, Laurie Medina, Haley Yates, Kevin Pena, Timothy Churchill, and Nathan Sandoval. The juniors are: Jacob McKinney, Alyssa Pfeiffer, Luke Hazelton, Rylan Ferguson, and Adrianna Dodgson. The sophomores are: Brock Thompson, Britney Pena (regional qualifier 2021), and the freshmen are: Kaydence Phillips and Gwen Robinson.

Head coach Wrinkle wants to acknowledge Bret Ratzlaff, who is in his 11th year as Midlothian’s Assistant Coach for the varsity, and he leads the Junior Varsity team as well.

“This man does an awesome job and is a great teacher, too,” says Wrinkle. “I hope the kids and parents know how lucky we are to have him in our program. I sure realize it! Also, not only do I head-up the varsity squad, but I coach the Frank Seale Middle School tennis team. We are also fortunate to have a new hire – Kati McCullough – to lead the Dietrich Middle School tennis team. “

District opener vs. Ennis

The Panthers hosted the Ennis Lions in a fall season district opener on Tuesday, Aug. 24. Midlothian battled hard from the very start, as their squad had the initial lead in the 7 doubles matches, ahead 4 to 3 wins over Ennis. From there, however, it was time for singles match play, and there’s where the consistency and determination of the Lions came in to cool down the red hot Panthers. It was an exciting late afternoon and early evening district match, but EHS came away with the victory with a slim margin of 11 to 8 total matches won.