published Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Henry sisters aim for CCS team title

Ellie Henry, left, 18, and her sister, Hannah, 16, play on the Chattanooga Christian tennis team.
Ellie Henry, left, 18, and her sister, Hannah, 16, play on the Chattanooga Christian tennis team.
Photo by Tim Barber.

GIRLS' TEAMS TO WATCH

1. Baylor: The two-time defending Division II-AA state champion returns four of its top six players.

2. GPS: The Bruisers return all six starters from the Division II-AA state runners-up.

3. Notre Dame: The Lady Irish return five starters from their Class A/AA state championship team.

BOYS' TEAMS TO WATCH

1. Baylor: The Red Raiders still have a few key pieces returning from their Division II-AA state semifinalist team.

2. Dalton: Despite losing their top singles player, the Catamounts are the team to beat in northwestern Georgia.

3. McCallie: The Blue Tornado return four starters from their Division II-AA state semifinalist team.

GIRLS' PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. Samantha Caswell, Baylor: The Division II-AA defending state singles champion is ranked as the No. 2 player in the state according to TennisRecruiting.Net.

2. Michelle Fleenor, GPS: She was the Division II-AA state singles runner-up in 2012.

3. Ellie Henry, Chattanooga Christian: She paired with her younger sister last season to make up one-half of the Class A/AA state doubles champions.

BOYS' PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. Stewart Fellers, Chattanooga Christian: He was a Region 4-A/AA singles finalist a year ago.

2. Conner O'Brien, McCallie: The sophomore transfer from Collegedale Academy will immediately help the Blue Tornado.

3. Blake Savard, Grace Academy: He could be the player to beat in Region 3-A/AA, depending on how quickly he returns from an injury suffered late in basketball season.

After a one-year absence coaching the Chattanooga Christian tennis team, Sue Webb returned to lead the program into the 2013 season.

Had she not taken the year off, though, Ellie Henry might not have a state championship to show for her efforts for the past four seasons. Neither would her sister, Hannah.

The sisters combined for the Class A/AA state doubles title last spring. Teaming up was a notion they had shrugged off the year before, as they weren't sure how they'd fit together on the court. The Lady Chargers' coach last season -- Renato Mizutani, now at Signal Mountain -- put them together and the championship became the reward.

"We always fought when we played together, and Coach Webb always understood that," Ellie said. "When Renato came, he automatically assumed we played together and put us together. When we got to the postseason, we figured we'd try it for the team and found out we were good together, and I don't think we would have realized we played well together if he hadn't done that."

Now with Webb back at the helm for this season only, senior Ellie and sophomore Hannah have goals of trying to get the one thing now that has alluded them -- a team state title. They were inches away from earning one in 2011, falling 4-3 in the finals to Christ Presbyterian Academy. Then they had to watch as rival Notre Dame won the 2012 state team title.

"I think that because we didn't have the chance to go as a team last year, we're more excited about going for it this year," Hannah said. "I think our team could get a championship. That would be more memorable than me and Ellie going again as individuals."

Ellie, who qualified as an individual in 2010, agrees with that notion. The Lady Chargers lost only one starter from last season's lineup and gained junior Caraline Redburg, who transferred in from California.

"I feel confident about our chances, especially since we only lost our No. 6 player," the elder Henry said. "We definitely have talent and potential, and knowing how Notre Dame did last year makes us want to push harder. They're one of our biggest challenges, and sometimes our matches with them feel like state-championship matches."

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