'Good mixture' - Destin Marlins swing into action

TINA HARBUCK
The boys go through practice drills Monday afternoon. From left are Banks Benitone, Grant DuVall and Matthew Wilson.

It's a mix on the courts this year for the Destin Marlin tennis teams.

While the middle school girls have five returning players, the boys have only one. Nevertheless, they are getting into the swing of things.

"They are doing real well, they are a new team," said Destin Coach Ronda Pridgen of the boys squad.

The one returning player for the Destin boys is eighth grader Carson Miller, who will play in the No. 2 spot for the team.

Others rounding out the team include two fifth graders, two sixth graders, two seventh and another eighth grader.

"It's a good mixture. They are doing fine," Pridgen said.

"This group is one of the best groups that have come together as a team in an individual sport. Sometimes it's hard to make the team," she said.

"Carson is my captain and he's done a good job with them. They are learning very fast and they are willing to learn … that's a huge thing.

"They have already improved tremendously since tryouts," Pridgen said. Tryouts were held Feb. 24.

As for the girls, five of the eight players are returning from last year.

Melisse Martineau, Mary Hannah Williams, Lily Stiles, Anastasia Miller and Audrey Oleen are returning and make up the top five for the Marlins.

"They should do well in the county this year," Pridgen said, noting they finished third last season.

"They've had a year to grow and they have continued to play tennis throughout the season and so I think they are going to give everybody a run for their money."

Several of the girls have played tournaments in the off season to keep their game up.

"They are real strong and use a lot of strategy. They are quick and solid," Pridgen said.

The Marlins had their first test on the courts Tuesday afternoon when they traveled to Crestview to take on Shoal River. Results were not available at press time.

Up next for Destin is a 4 p.m. game April 7 at home at Sandpiper Cove against the Bruner Spartans.

ON THE TEAM

Boys: Wesley Shackelford, Carson Miller, Brody Miller, Beck Holahan, Grant DuVall, Axel Strynar, Banks Benitone and Matthew Wilson.

Girls: Melisse Martineau, Mary Hannah Williams, Lily Stiles, Anastasia Miller, Audrey Oleen, Sophie Cohen, Ainsley Barousse and Madison Pridgen.