DUBLIN — West Bladen’s highly-successful girls tennis program will be under new leadership going forward, as Mary Catherine White takes over for Jeff Atkinson effective immediately.
White, a Spanish teacher at West Bladen and former tennis player at Meredith College, inherits a 2-0 team that she has helped Atkinson coach in the early going. Atkinson’s role has been limited because of a summer surgery he continues to heal from.
“I could not coach the girls this season due to having a surgery and not being able to get out and hit and demonstrate drills and strokes because of me being on light duty and restrictions,” Atkinso0n said. “Mary Catherine White … brings much experience and knowledge of the game and I am sure that the girls are going to learn very much from her and have a successful season.”
Atkinson added that assistant coach Billy Bryant will continue to help with the team this season.
“They have the girls playing good and they have got off to a good start in the 2017,” Atkinson said. “That is great considering that we lost our top two players from last year and we will have another player who will be having surgery and will be gone for the rest of the season.
“I think they are still in great shape with the girls coming back, especially with the experience that they gained last year having a varsity and JV team,” he added.
Over the past several seasons, the Lady Knights have been a force among girls tennis, winning multiple conference and conference tournament accolades — including a number of conference Player of the Year honors like Erica Tanner and Alanna Ludlum — as well as setting school records for wins.
White will officially lead West Bladen in its Three Rivers Conference opener Tuesday at home against Fairmont.
Jennifer Hair, the long-time varsity volleyball coach at East Bladen, has stepped down for personal reasons, making way for former Lady Eagles volleyball player Brittney Hardee to step in and take over.
Hardee, who graduated in 2005 after a three-sport career that culminated with a Female Athlete of the Year award in 2005, is a former Most Valuable Player in volleyball. She also played basketball and softball.
The Elizabethtown Primary School teacher will lead the Lady Eagles in the Three Rivers Conference opener on Tuesday at Whiteville.