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Griffen Nickels looks to lead the Science Hill boys back to the TSSAA state tournament.

The Science Hill tennis teams look to honor the 2020 seniors with their play this season.

After the boys team reached the state semifinals in 2019, the expectations were sky high for the Hilltoppers the following season. Unfortunately, the season never happened with the COVID-19 shutdown. It has made Science Hill determined to make 2021 a season to remember.

The Hilltoppers are led by Griffen Nickels at the No. 1 spot. Nickels qualified for the state as a sophomore and is motivated more than ever to get back after losing his junior season. He is the No. 7-ranked player in Tennessee, according to the Head recruiting list. Science Hill coach Kelly Lane said it’s his leadership even more than his talent that stands out.

“The best thing about Griffen is he cares more about the team’s success than he does his own personal accolades,” Lane said. “I can honestly say he is playing the best tennis of his high school career at the moment.”

There is strength in numbers and Lane is excited for the middle of the lineup featuring the likes of Daniel Haddadin, Om Patel and Arshaam Kordamiri. It’s the first varsity action any of them have seen after last year’s cancellation. The coach describes them as bringing different styles and personalities to a match, but collectively a strong group which continues to get better.

Senior Zack Clemons has shown good progress after missing out on a junior year. According to Lane, he’s improved so much through the time and effort devoted to his game.

“His junior year was going to be crucial and I hated he didn’t get that invaluable experience in big matches,” Lane said. “But, he’s worked harder than anyone preparing for this season. You can see a huge difference in his game and how much more control he has during a match. That’s a credit to him and the local coaches he trains with throughout the year.”

The youth movement is strong with freshmen Jackson Temple and Daniel Dalton as well as sophomore Arjuna Ferguson pushing the upperclassmen. The competition is making the team better during practice.

It’s a deep roster with Erik and Evan Liu, Nick Jones, Micah Richardson, Tim Li, Adam Everhart, Jordan Dalton and Buddy Hart bringing energy to the team.

“They’re all going to play a huge role in our team’s success this year,” Lane said. “I couldn’t be more excited about the group of guys we have. We’re all so grateful for this season and want to honor the 2020 seniors with all we do.”

SCIENCE HILL GIRLS

The girls are just as determined after losing two seniors in the starting lineup and looking to be contenders for a state berth.

Allie Knox returns this season as the lone senior on the team. She has been in two district tournaments and performed well.

“Allie is a smart player and will pair that expertise with her skill and determination to get the team into contention for the conference title,” SH girls coach Erin Williams said. “She is supported by a half-dozen sophomores and juniors who are eager to get state recognition.”

Leah McBride and Josi Reid are top-notch sophomores, whom Williams describes as the heart of the team. She lauded their dedication to the sport, working hard to hone their skills and improve themselves.

“They have been in numerous situations in their tennis careers and the team will be able to count on them to blaze the way to many wins this season,” Williams said. “They were robbed of their freshmen year, so big things are expected of this duo.”

Fellow sophomores Lexi Bryant and Armita Kordamiri will also be counted on heavily. The competition for the final singles and doubles spots will be contended by a group of hard-working girls.

“These girls are excited to be together, practicing and eager to compete,” Williams said. “They love competition and are read for the challenge. This will be an exciting three months for our girls.”