WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Rider High School's tennis team has a unique dynamic with its two coaches. Both have extensive experience in tennis, and that has been a huge plus for the athletes.
"A lot of times, only one coach knows tennis and the schools will bring in 'somebody,'" said Rider head coach Kyle Apperson. "I pushed hard to get [Alex] McClung and I'm very, very happy. I mean, she is good. Because what, again, people don't realize is that there can be ten matches going on at the same time. Now we obviously can't coach all ten matches, and if there is just one person that knows what's going on, it really hamstrings you."
McClung played at Midwestern State as Alex Odell-Michels and before that had experience playing on the WTA Tour as a teenager. You may also remember her as a reporter for us here at Newschannel 6 before she went into teaching and coaching!
"For us, me and Julia [Chon] for example, we play doubles," said senior Casie Curry, who will compete with Chon in the Class 5A Girls Doubles field at State this week. "So if we ever need a doubles match or practice we can always play our two coaches, because they both have great skills."
"Coach McClung definitely offers a lot of mental support, more than anything," said Chon, a sophomore. "She is really good with words and she helps you through. Since tennis is a mental game, she helps you through all the tough times on the court."
Casie and Julia are undefeated this year in doubles, but now they know the competition will get tougher as they take on some of the best teams in Texas in College Station.
"First round, we've heard that we have a good chance that it will be a good match," explained Curry. "And if we do pull it out, in our second round we actually play the people who won State last year. So that will be a tough match."
"Our second match might be kind of a struggle," Chon agreed. "Because one of the girls won State last year, but she has a different partner [now]. So hopefully we can just hit it to her and make it work."
Casie comes from a long line of tennis players in her family. Her older brother Connor Curry won State for Rider back in 2014, and Casie hopes to add on to that legacy.
"It's nice to know that I'm not the only one in my family who didn't make it to State," Curry said. "So I'm kind of carrying on tradition I guess. Chase [her oldest brother] never won State; he actually never won a round at state. But Conner did, so hopefully I can do better than Chase did."
"Her brother won State, and I know that she would definitely like to follow in his footsteps," Chon said of her older teammate. "I would, too, really. Bring home the gold!"
Curry and Chon will play Annika Juergens and Nell Covington of Dallas Highland Park in the State Quarterfinals on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Texas A&M University in College Station!