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Cougar coaches get net results

April 18, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - When Jefferson boys tennis coach Glenn Edwards calls the achievements of the school's tennis program "amazing," it's only natural for one to nod in agreement.

But once one dives into the raw statistics, it becomes more apparent that "amazing" is a huge understatement.

Consider the following:

· Jefferson's boys team has won West Virginia regional titles in 24 of the last 25 years; the girls have won 15 regional titles in 16 seasons.

· The boys won a state title in 1982 and have six second-place finishes.

· The Cougars have won the Cumberland Valley Athletic League title - one in which boys and girls team are combined - for 17 straight years.

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· Jefferson's girls captured their 10th consecutive Apple Valley League championship on Saturday.

"You look in comparison, and I don't think you can find any team that can say they've won 17 straight CVAL titles, or 24 of 25 regional titles," Edwards said last Monday during Jefferson's dual meet against St. Maria Goretti. "We've had players represent us in the state tournament every year since it started in 1969. These are things that sometimes get put on the back burner that I think are pretty amazing."

With all the team success has come individual recognition for Edwards and Judy Marcus, Jefferson's girls coach.

Edwards is the winningest boys tennis coach in West Virginia high school history with more than 500 career dual-meet victories. Marcus holds the state record for girls dual-meet victories, with more than 300. Both of them achieved their latest milestone wins earlier this year.

Combine them with Jefferson baseball coach John Lowery - the state's all-time winningest baseball coach who earlier this season earned his 900th victory - and it's pretty clear which West Virginia school rules the springtime.

"We're all still active and functioning at the same school ... and it says a lot about our athletes over a long period of time," Edwards said.

Jefferson's tennis program is well-established these days, with kids growing up with a racquet in one hand and dreams of shining in a Cougars uniform dancing in their heads.

"The kids start to play almost from the time they first can carry a racquet," Marcus said. "I talked to a grandmother the other day, and she showed me a picture of her two-day-old granddaughter and she said, 'Look at her, she looks like she's holding a tennis racquet.' Parents want their kids to be a part of this program."

But Marcus still remembers how it all began, back before success bred more success and the program took off.

"We do sometimes take it for granted," Marcus said. "We take these eight courts (at the high school) for granted. I remember when we used to have only two, and we'd send our players to parks or private residences to play. One night, we had our car lights shining on the courts. It showed the dedication of the kids and their parents."

The success of the players themselves often stems from what they do when not playing for Jefferson during the season. In fact, a large part of Jefferson's success comes from what the players do before they even make it to the high school.

"We have so many kids in the summer programs, playing tournaments, and also kids playing for the middle school club team," Edwards said. "A lot of these players play tennis year-round. They don't throw their racket in the closet on May 1, and that makes a difference. Sometimes (the summer is) the best growing time. ... The main thing is really to play tournaments and play serious. It's like a bicycle. You can't at first take off the training wheels. It often takes a year."

"It's a short season and you can't teach skills in two months," Marcus said. "They do come to us as players, and that's a big advantage. We've gotten so lucky with our system coaches. It's all about teamwork."

Edwards and Marcus base their tennis teaching around two central themes - developing a consistent serve, and keeping the ball in play and avoiding unforced errors instead of going for risky winners. It's all about helping the players stay sharp mentally, rather than physically.

"We all have different talents, and mine is I have an ability to motivate kids," Marcus said. "When you send them out there, your job as a coach is essentially done."

The results speak for themselves.

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