Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
After a two-year absence, Tracy Densmore returned to her post as Kell’s girls tennis coach.
Before the season started, Densmore was approached by Kell administrator and former boys tennis coach Sara Griffin and was told she would be inheriting a talented squad.
Densmore was encouraged, but she was still cautiously optimistic.
“Well, it’s kind of hard if I haven’t seen them yet,” she said. “People have told me that in the past, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, let’s just wait and see what we have.’”
Ultimately, Densmore discovered that Kell was as talented as advertised.
The Lady Longhorns program had never been beyond the first round of the state playoffs, but once Densmore came up with the right singles and doubles combinations, she led the team all the way to the Class AAAAA state semifinals.
Densmore, the 2015 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Tennis Coach of the Year, has set a new bar.
“I’m just honored and happy to get to work with this group of girls,” she said. “There are coaches that work with amazing girls who may not have the best attitude. If a player doesn’t have the best attitude, it’s going to spread like a virus on the team. I didn’t have that problem with this group.”
That is what made it so easy to formulate her doubles teams.
At the beginning of the season, Densmore rotated Meela Patell, Jada Robinson and Shelby Nyberg at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles until she found the right doubles pairing of Nyberg and Robinson. She also found an effective pairing of Claudia Cassanova and Kysia Katsoudas at No. 1 doubles, and she inserted Patell at No. 3 singles behind Samantha Dearing and Katie Tarbell.
If Densmore needed confirmation that the Lady Longhorns were for real, it came from watching them beat Sequoyah 4-1 in the season opener.
“Sequoyah had a strong team,” Densmore said. “When I saw my girls play against Sequoyah, I knew almost immediately that this was going to be an amazing season.”
Kell went on to finish 13-5 overall and won all but one of its Region 7AAAAA matches — the one exception being a loss to eventual state champion Cambridge.
Kell went on to loss to Cambridge again in the final round of the region tournament, putting the Lady Longhorns into the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed. After beating Lanier in the first round, Kell set itself up for a rematch with Allatoona, which beat the Lady Longhorns 3-2 in the first round of the state tournament in 2014.
Kell avenged that loss by winning 3-0 at Allatoona, losing just eight games in the process.
“I told them, no matter what happens, just play the best that you can play, and that’s all that I ask for,” Densmore said. “And they played better than they have ever played.”