Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of every area team’s senior class as their senior seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will culminate in Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.’s Virtual Senior Night. For more information on that, visit www.thewetumpkaherald.com.
Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. is hosting a “Virtual Senior Night.”
Wetumpka tennis coach Scott Walker knew he was going to have a special group for a long time when he first saw the Class of 2020 together. Many of them joined the varsity program when they were still in middle school and it did not take long for that group to make its way into the starting rotation.
The group stayed together until the end and became the most successful senior class in the program’s history. They made it to the state tournament twice, setting a new standard for Wetumpka, and finished with 37 team match wins since 2016.
“The longevity of having a team together like that is rare,” Walker said. “As a teacher and a coach, you have memories of particular classes of kids that were just outstanding. Having this group for so long, they got to be really good players and really good friends. We rode to the peak of the tallest roller coaster with this group. As far as legacy goes, this may be the best group I’ve ever had.”
Jay Teel led the way from the beginning and became a staple in the starting lineup as just a seventh grader. He became the team’s top seed the next year and never let it go. After his junior season, Teel was named to the North-South All-Star roster, becoming the first Wetumpka tennis player to receive that recognition.
“He really excelled at a rate I didn’t see much,” Walker said. “He made it to the fourth seed as a seventh-grader and we made state for the first time ever. All the ones ahead of him were seniors so it was a natural movement but he had to earn it. After that, he held it and there was no doubt he was the guy.”
Teel’s doubles partner was Jake Walker who also served as the team’s No. 4 seed. The duo racked up the victories and became the team’s winningest doubles group despite being the No. 2 seed.
Walker had plenty of success on his own as well. He had the strongest serve, finishing with the most aces.
“It was nice to see him grow,” coach Walker said. “He was doing quite a bit of work even just on his own. He worked really hard on that. I saw how much he works in the offseason and it showed on the court.”
Pierson Waite had also been in the program since he was in eighth grade and it did not take him long to take the No. 2 spot behind Teel in the rotation.
“He had this style of play that was very consistent,” Walker said. “He developed really well throughout a match and figure out how to change things. He was good at making those subtle corrections in a match to turn things around. He had a purpose to it that was noticeable especially to other coaches.”
Waite partnered with Jordan Wilson in doubles as the two had a strong chemistry on the court together. Wilson made his mark early on and Walker remember the exact moment that helped the whole team gain a little bit more confidence.
“I remember him for breaking through the wall that was Opelika,” Walker said. “They were beating us 9-0 every year but he beat one of their seniors in a tiebreaker. That showed a crack in that wall. There’s a lot of matches and good things I remember but that will go down as one of the best ones.”
Wetumpka still lost that match 7-2 but it did not drop another team result to the Bulldogs over the final three seasons, including two 9-0 wins of its own.
Christian Chappelle did not get as much time on the court as some of the other seniors but he spent just as much time with the program and continued to put the work in despite not being the first selection off the team sheet.
“He was no doubt one of the biggest assets to me over the last five years,” Walker said. “He has been very patient and always worked hard with it. His attitude was one of those that never got discouraged and he made it work for the team. He was the glue for sure.”
Cory Hines and T.J. Anthony both joined the team as seniors and despite not seeing a lot of competition, it did not take long for them to fit in with the rest of the team.
“I have always told them that if you’re an upperclassman coming to tryouts, you better be really good,” Walker said. “They were good friends with a lot of the players and they would go out there and play a lot. It’s hard to make the team for the first time as a senior. They knew they wouldn’t get on the court a lot but they still enjoyed it in the time they had.”