Tazewell tennis

Getting experience... Members of the Tazewell tennis team take a moment for a photo before the Bulldogs’ match Tuesday against Graham at Fincastle Country Club. Pictured are, left to right, Tim Butler, Robert Clifton, Jonathon Hayes and Paul Walls.

BLUEFIELD, Va. — It was already hard enough for the Tazewell boys tennis team to remain competitive in the Southwest District.

Then along came Abingdon.

“Usually in the district, before Abingdon joined it, it was either Graham or Richlands and usually we’re fighting behind them,” Tazewell tennis coach William Lester said. “Now that we’ve got Abingdon added to it, you’ve got another one up there that is sort of a juggernaut that has plenty of facilities to practice and play all year and we have none.

“It’s a struggle, but we’re going to try to do our best.”

Despite having just four players at a Tuesday match at Fincastle Country Club in a 9-0 loss to Graham, Lester was pleased with their efforts, and the fact that they showed up ready to play.

“I’m very proud of them,” Lester said. “If I could just get enough to show up and consistently come out and practice, it would be a world of difference.”

Lester’s biggest struggle at Tazewell has been trying to find enough players to squeeze tennis into their busy schedules.

“Earlier in the year we were winning matches when we had everybody showing up,” Lester said. “A numbers problem is mainly our situation, just competing with other sports and getting them to show up.

“They’ve got so many other things going on this time of year, SOLs, and things at home.”

Leading Tazewell as the top seed is Jonathon Hayes, who has shown promise this season, as have Tim Butler, Robert Clifton and Paul Walls, all of whom played against the G-Men earlier this week.

“Jonathon was my original two-seed, but he’s been playing one most of the year,” Lester said. “He’s actually been very competitive, he’s actually only lost to Abingdon, Graham and Richlands, other than that he’s won all his matches.”

As for the other three, Lester is looking for them to get experience and be ready to contribute next year.

“Tim and Robert have been with me most of the year,” Lester said. “They’ll still learning, they’re in the mid-seeds, but they’re having to play up this year, higher than what they should.

“They’re getting a new learning experience and it will help them for next year. Paul is new to tennis completely, when he’s not working and he gets to show up, he’s learning, he’s slowing coming along.”

While Tazewell has lost to the ‘big 3’, they had chances to win against other SWD teams, but were, once again, hurt by lack of numbers against Carroll County and Marion.

“We actually were competitive with them and actually would have won the matches if I had had enough people,” Lester said. “We lost 5-4 and I had forfeit two of them to start with.”

The future does look bright, even with the logjam at the top of the SWD. Lester is just looking for a few young men with a passion for tennis, and eager to play.

“Everybody is coming back for next year,” Lester said. “If I get the numbers up for next year...these guys have actually come a long way this year.

“Two of them hadn’t even played. The ones that I have had come out, they’ve improved quite a bit. I’m proud of them.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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