Coming into the season with little tennis experience, Thomas Dale freshman Emily Nicol stayed committed to improving her game and finished the year with the Knights’ best individual record en route to being nominated for and winning the Village News girls Tennis Player of the Year.
“Her poise really helped her in those tough matches against James River, Cosby, and Clover Hill,” said coach Ellen Womble. “She stayed cool and played some of her best tennis.”
In addition to her poise, it was Nicol’s consistency that allowed her to be so successful. She kept her opponents moving by placing her shots carefully, and served consistently well throughout the course of the season.
Due to the freshman’s natural talent, she started out as the Knights’ number five player, and she received mentoring from many of the upperclassmen on the team. Team captain Emma Clark helped her out a lot with her game, along with her two doubles partners, Irene Biju and Kristen Palmer. Emily’s eagerness to listen and learn from others helped her, and she will continue learning even more.
“She is just one of those quiet players who takes it all in, and then goes out on the court and does it,” said Womble.
Being a former gymnast, Nicol wasn’t always as dedicated to tennis as she is now. Over the summer, she will be taking tennis lessons at the Petersburg Country Club as she strives to improve her record in her sophomore campaign.
It appears that Nicol’s and the Knights’ future is bright, as they’ll have a sophomore player with an offseason of training under her belt to anchor the top half of the lineup next season.
Nate Haskins has been a true leader for Thomas Dale, with his character and his strong play. He finished this season with a 9-5 record as the number 1 seed for the Knights, and also had a 9-4 record with his doubles partner, Jacob Crowder.
What really sets Nate apart from the rest is his mentality. “He has a great drive and desire to win,” said coach Andrew Boydoh. “It takes hard work to get where he wants to get.”
Haskins shows up ready to compete, and plays the game of tennis how it was intended to be played. His constant drive to become better is a big part of his winning mentality and developing the needed technical skills.
“His serve has come a long way in 4 years,” Boydoh remarked.
An effort-type player, Haskins always gives his best effort, never gives up on a point or game, and plays logically and sharp.
“I’m not a professional player myself, but with the young guys seeing Nate’s abilities, that’s good for them and he’s helped my abilities as a coach,” said Boydoh.
Boydoh says Haskins’ leadership by example reinforces the coach’s teaching, and have made him an effective leader. In addition: “His desire to learn the proper way to play the game and his understanding of the game have really rubbed off on the younger players. He has been an effective leader because he leads the team by example.”
Haskins is just as sharp off the court as he is on the court. The senior is a bit of an entrepreneur, helping run a painting business in addition to school and tennis, and he also keeps his GPA up, attaining a 3.98 throughout high school. Although he won’t be playing tennis at the next level, he will be attending Virginia Tech next year, in their strong engineering program.