North Otago junior tennis is booming.
The local squad celebrated one of its most significant achievements in years recently when the North Otago 16s won their grade at the southern regional teams event in Dunedin.
“We think it could be a first, winning the 16s at the quads,” Timaru-based coach Steve Dries.
“It certainly hasn’t happened within the last 15 years.
“It was a very exciting win for our kids. North Otago junior tennis is showing improvement right across the board.”
Dries, who has been working with the players in the 16s squad for about five years, said they deserved their success.
“They’re all very keen and they wanted to win.
“It was just really pleasing to see a North Otago team at the top.”
The future could be bright as there are now a stack of talented younger players coming through the grades.
“I think this has certainly inspired our younger ones underneath the 16s. They’ve seen it can be done, so that’s a good step,” Dries said.
“There are a lot of keen younger players coming though so we hope we can continue their development.”
The 16s grade at the southern tournament went down to the wire, and an extra super tiebreak was required to separate North Otago and Otago after matches, sets and games were all even after all 12 matches.
Mackenzie Phillips and Keidah Bungard led the North Otago effort by remaining unbeaten through all of their singles clashes, while Brandon Howell showed plenty of improvement and both Simone Hamilton and Sarah Dodd played well.
North Otago players also showed promise in the lower grades.
In the 14s, Rebecca Dodd won three singles matches, Quaid Fincham-Wells pushed much more experienced opponents hard, and Jake Gilchrist played well.
Amelia Newlands, playing up a grade, also showed her competitive spirit at No 1 against some tough players.
The North Otago 12s faced some stiff competition but again showed a lot of improvement. Jordyn Phillips showed her class, winning three of four singles matches, and Olivia Hamilton and Ben Strang were highly competitive.
In the 10s, Kate Mortimer won three of four singles matches and combined well with Quinn Burge for two good doubles wins, while Emma Dodd and Ruby Fox showed they will be ones to watch in coming years.
Meanwhile, North Otago’s senior players also performed with credit at their second regional tournament at the weekend.
The North Otago A team beat Southern Lakes B 13 sets to 12, and the B team had a good win over Otago C.
The North Otago championships for senior and junior players are on March 10-12.