Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

August 1, 2013

CHS Tennis: Makin' some noise

Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Just call them the

Corsi-Chant-a Tigers.

Honest.

It’s who and what they are, an identity the kids embrace just as much as they wrap themselves around the concept of team tennis.

Team tennis isn’t an oxymoron. It’s a way of life at Corsicana High School, where the tennis players compete as individuals in the spring, but band together every autumn as one — one big blue and gold ball of togetherness.

And this year’s group is as close as ever.

“We’ve been close as a team and when we won district last year it just meant more to us,’’ said Maggie Phinney, a senior who is Corsicana’s No. 1 girls singles player. “The years before there were conflicts, but we grew closer last year and this year’s team is going to be even closer.’’

 Put the blame on the chanting.

They love to chant, and cheer and pull for each other. It’s kind of their own blue badge of courage.

Before they take the court — nine boys and nine girls make up the team — they get together and chant. They’re loud. They’re bold. And they’re confident.

That’s what the chanting is really all about — about believing in each other. The fact the Tigers are loud is just an exclamation point.

“The other teams get annoyed with us because we are so loud,’’ said Tyler Schultz, a senior and one of the strongest boys players.

They don’t just chant, but they pull for each other and cheer with the kind of excitement and energy that makes people notice.

That’s the point. The kids want to let everyone know that Corsicana is here.

“The chanting shows our confidence,’’ Phinney said. “And the cheering helps a lot. It just builds our confidence to have a team support you.’’

It defines them.

“I love it,’’ coach Chad White said of the chanting before each match. “It’s great. They came up with it on their own. Some teams don’t have that kind of camaraderie.’’

A year ago the boys were strong and the girls were growing into a district power, and the combination produced an undefeated season in District 16-4A. They didn’t just win the district title, they owned it.

They want to own it again.

“This team is probably the strongest since I’ve been here,’’ said White, who has been coaching at Corsicana for four years. “Corsicana has a great tradition in tennis, and has had great teams before I got here.’’

This could be a memorable season.

It’s in the air, the kind of excitement that always comes with high expectations and confidence. The kids can’t wait for the season to begin.

“We’re pretty excited,’’ said Jacob Middleton, a junior. “We’re ready to dominate this year.’’

That’s the feeling everywhere on the team.

“Our guys were so dominate last year and our girls were incredible for being such a young team last year,’’ Schultz said. “We’re looking forward to the season.’’

And then there’s the simple logic of Melany Bentancourt, a senior who believes this is the year Corsicana can make a statement.

“We work hard. We play hard. That’s our motto,’’ she said. “And it’s my senior year. It’s going to be great.’’

How committed are they? Consider this: None of the members of the team knows what their individual record was last year — not even a clue.

That kind of bond, that kind of one-for-all, all-for-one mentality is priceless.

White hopes to build on the momentum of last year’s success. He knows he has a talented group that includes Johnny Kastan, a senior who will play No. 1 singles, and Ellen Bentancourt, who returns as a senior after playing No. 1 doubles a year ago. Vincente Castillo, a senior, and Ben Crocker, a junior, will be a major part of the team’s success, and then there’s Caroline Kennemore, who is just a sophomore, but played No. 2 doubles with Phinney a year ago.

By the end of the season, Corsicana had broken into the state’s Top 25, and was ranked 24th.

That’s not a bad jumping off point for a group of kids who want to make even more noise this season — literally.

The Tigers have a chance to advance this year because the UIL has restructured the team tennis playoffs. In the past Corsicana would advance from district to the regionals, where state powerhouse Highland Park — the most powerful and tradition-rich tennis team in Texas — would be waiting.

This year the UIL has added an area round to the playoffs, so Corsicana has a chance to win a district title and an area title before facing Highland Park. The Tigers would still have to win the state title in the regional round — basically that’s what it would mean to beat Highland Park, which has owned the state crown for years.

Still, this could be a memorable year for the kids who chant and cheer. Like it or not, everyone will know Corsicana is there.

That’s the message on and off the court.

Just call them the Corsi-Chant-a Tigers.