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What made Duncan girls tennis coach Phil Barnes proud was how his players reacted after junior Alex Bowers finished her No. 1 singles match at the Class 5A state tournament.
Bowers played a three-hour match against Cascia Hall’s Peyton Jennings. After Jennings got the win, Bowers’ teammates were right beside her.
“You saw a whole sea of red running out to console Alex Bowers when it was over — and that was all of our girls,” Barnes said.
Carly Kirkland was happy for Bowers, regardless of the match’s outcome.
“Alex, especially in her final match, faced some adversity,” she said. “She represented us so well, by the way she conducted herself and the game she played.”
The unity among the players and the sportsmanship they demonstrated add to the success the girls have had on the court and in the classroom, the latter evidenced by the Duncan girls claiming the Class 5A state academic championship for the sixth time in the last eight years.
Bowers takes pride in all of these things.
“I was really proud of how everyone did,” she said. “I’m really thankful we got the opportunity to win it. More than anything, it’s always good to be gracious and show good sportsmanship on and off the court.”
The Duncan girls credit their coaches for the team’s athletic success, academic strength and the class they show. Senior Sydney Hendricks said it started with Gene Aldridge in the middle school program.
“He came up to us with a list of priorities when we were young, and he always told us that tennis should never be number one,” Hendricks said.
The coaches reminded them to do well in the classroom and to be good people, Hendricks said.
“We would not have been as successful without them,” she said. “They made us better; not just in tennis, but off the court as well.”
Barnes said the parents are just as important in making sure the players are strong in academics and character. That applies to both the girls and boys teams, he said.
“I couldn’t have a better group of parents,” he said.
Although Barnes doesn’t believe in moral victories, he said he loved the effort his girls gave at state.
“I’m disappointed not in the girls, but for the girls, because we spent so much time working so hard,” he said. “We were winning matches with guts and heart.”