• 68°

Oxford tennis aiming for rare 10th straight state title

There are dynasties in nearly every sport if you look. The New England Patriots and the Connecticut women’s basketball team are just a couple. In high school tennis in the state of Mississippi, there is a dynasty right in Oxford’s back yard. The Oxford High tennis team begins their season on Friday and also their quest for a 10th straight state championship.

It has become almost a formality in Class 5A to pencil in the Chargers as the team to represent the North in the state title match. After losing six out of 12 players who played for last season’s title team, the road for No. 10 may be a little tougher than normal, but head coach Louis Nash is not sweating it even though it is the highest turnover he’s had to deal with during his time at Oxford.

“In our class, we should be the favorite,” Nash said. “It’s starting to add up that we’re a little younger than we used to be, or less experienced. We had a run where kids played five, six years of varsity tennis in a row and that kind of experience is pretty big. I think we’re going to be pretty good. We got some good kids and a lot have been in the program for a while.”

Youth may be a factor, but Nash has plenty of championship-caliber talent returning, including junior Grace Anne Joyce, who was the first girl to win an individual state championship under Nash. Also returning on the girls side are sophomores Savannah Nagle and Hailey Lowery, who saw time on the court as freshmen last season. On the boys side, Oxford gets senior Max Mauney back as well as juniors Ryan Mounce, Bo Nash and Eli Abel.

“Where we’ve always been better is our four, five and six (matches) have been better by far than the other people’s four, five and six,” Nash said. “We’ll be inexperienced there, but I think we’re going to be pretty good.”

Home-court advantage

If Oxford can make the annual journey through the regular season and postseason, they will be rewarded with not having to hop on a bus for the pilgrimage to Jackson as the MHSAA awarded the Oxford Parks Commission and the new John Leslie Tennis Courts with the Class 1, 2 and 3A as well as the Class 5A state championships in May. The Chargers will be able to play for a historic 10th title in their own backyard.

“To me, it’s just so much simpler,” Nash said of the prospects of staying home for the state championships. “I told our kids the other day when we were talking about it. I said, ‘You will be surprised how many people come out and watch you play in your match when you have the state final here.’ I’m honored to have it here. To have a chance to win 10 in a row and it be here?  That’s pretty cool, too.”

Oxford kicks their season off with two matches in Ridgeland against Madison Central (10 a.m.) and Ocean Springs (1 p.m.) on Friday.