Science Hill has a new person leading its tennis program, but the expectations remain high.
D.C. Smith took over as head coach, following in the footsteps of the ultra-successful Pete Zannis — who led the Hilltoppers to five state championships before retiring prior to the season.
“Taking over a program that has been so successful and following a coach like Pete, obviously you’re nervous,” said Smith. “But one thing that is exciting is trying to carry on the tradition at Science Hill.
“When there is a changing of the guards, there are always adjustments. But I hope we can keep things rolling.”
Smith’s teams got off to good starts Wednesday with victories over Sullivan South. The boys earned an 8-1 decision against the Rebels while the girls racked up a 9-0 win.
Smith said the timing was right for him to step into the role of head coach after a couple of years as an assistant.
“It’s something I wanted to do, having worked with Pete so long.” said Smith. “Having been around the program, it was a good time for me.”
Smith said he believes both the boys and girls teams can compete for Big Eight Conference championships, which traditionally means they can compete at the state level as well.
However, the boys are young and a bit unproven. Leading the way at the top is junior Colin Ice.
“It’s a big jump for him,” said Smith. “But part of athletics is stepping up to the plate when you have to do it. He’s a real hard worker.”
Following Ice in the lineup are sophomore Thomas Young, senior Landon Martin, and sophomore Cameron Martin. Also in the mix are juniors Mason Sizemore and Colin Whitfield.
Smith said he will also take a close look at freshmen Parth Goenka, Fulton Robinson, and Ashwin Jagadish.
“I’m of those coaches who likes to say we feel we can most definitely compete for the conference title,” said Smith. “We have a lot of kids who are capable of winning. I don’t know what Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High have, but we have kids who are capable of playing good tennis. Their work ethic causes me to have faith in them.”
On the girls’ side, it starts with senior Katie Deal. She’s a veteran who has been playing since her eighth grade year.
“She’s a tremendous kid, and she is a leader for the team,” said Smith. “She takes charge, and she helps all the girls.”
Another key player is junior Hope Forbush.
“Hope and Katie compete so hard with each other,” said Smith. “They’ve played doubles at the state tournament. Hope is playing some great tennis.”
Also in the lineup are senior Leah Eddy, sophomore Avery Linton, freshman Jamison Reid, and sophomore Madison Trent.
Smith said he also likes his freshman group, which has Hannah Torbett, Julianne Taylor, Mary Keaton-Stewart, Kate Green and Olivia Pardue.
“Overall the girls only lost one player, but Alison Storie is hard to replace,” said Smith. “But we definitely have a chance to do some really good things this year.”
Next up for the boys is a home match Tuesday against Abingdon, Va. The girls will travel to play Abingdon on Monday.