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Monday, Mar. 2, 2015

McKinney feels tennis sectional just got better

Posted Thursday, August 11, 2011, at 12:18 PM

Linton-Stockton boys tennis coach Brad McKinney likes how the new tennis sectional pairings have almost formed a "class system" for the tournament. Above, McKinney demonstrates a workout drill while Cody Kocher watches.(Rick Curl/Greene County Daily World).
Fans may not realize it yet, but there's a new tennis sectional alignment this year.

The reshuffling by the IHSAA has cast the Linton-Stockton Miners, Bloomfield Cardinals, White River Valley Wolverines and North Daviess Cougars into the same four-team sectional.

It will be hosted by North Daviess, but that's not really the most significant factor according to Linton coach Brad McKinney.

"Its almost like our sectional has become a class sectional," he told me as we discussed the upcoming season. "It's like if you look at some of the realignment that they did, it kind of classed itself out without them actually saying they're going to class it."

The shift really has an effect on how the postseason could unfold.

Previously you had the Miners, Greencastle, Northview and Owen Valley competing at Northview while the Cardinals and Wolverines went to Loogootee along with the host Lions, Paoli and North Daviess.

"It's not that we haven't competed -- we've competed at Northview quite well in the last seven or eight years," said McKinney. "We've gone up there and Northview has been such a pain in our rear end we've had to battle them every year and we've had some really tight losses to them at times."

And that bred its own form of disappointment for McKinney and his past teams.

"I've felt like at times it was us and them battling even if it wasn't in the championship, it was in the semifinals maybe," he said. "It was whoever got through our match was the one that was going to be able to win that thing -- we've had all kinds of trouble with them."

Now all three county teams are set to join North Daviess in a sectional at Elnora while Loogootee, Barr-Reeve, Northeast Dubois, Springs Valley and Paoli move to Loogootee and Northview, Greencastle, South Putnam and South Vermillion all compete at Greencastle.

"Now we're in with teams that first of all we're very familiar with," McKinney told me. "We're very familiar with Bloomfield, WRV and North Daviess. They're conference schools and of course all of the coaches."

That might be one of the most underrated aspects to the shift, the familiarity between the coaches and the style of matches they endorse.

McKinney said all of the participating coaches will now have a sense of what to expect, and thus create a more competitive and more balanced tournament.

"We're going to play them and we know what they have coming," McKinney said. "We know we're going to see them during the year and they're schools our size."

Another big difference according to McKinney, comes in how lopsided it can be for off season work in favor of the schools in bigger cities.

"They're our size they're rural schools," he said. "None of them are close to an indoor tennis facility where kids have been hitting all year."

That might well play into the equation as a subplot in itself according to McKinney.

"Our kids at winter time -- especially this past winter -- they didn't get to play a lot of tennis," he said. "The weather doesn't cooperate for us. So it gets us on a more level playing ground with schools just like us.

"They're small, rural schools that don't have the option to go into these indoor facilities all year round, playing and developing just tennis players."

With those points fully in mind, McKinney believes the chase for a sectional title won't become any easier for his team or for any of the other three teams.

"Bloomfield is a wonderful program and (coach) Mike (Canty) does a wonderful job with them and if (NDHS coach) Brock (Higgins) gets those kids playing at the level that Brock played when he played at North Daviess they're going to be a handful to deal with," McKinney said. "And Roger's (Maryfield) working hard at WRV.

"It's not going to be any easier because I know we've got some teams that have been improving, it's a more level playing field I think."

Of course with the change of sectional alignment comes a handful of changes further down the road.

For example, previously the winner at Northview went to Center Grove for the regional while the Loogootee winner went to Jasper.

Now both winners will play the regional at Jasper.

"Now we go to a different regional and at that level we see the big schools again," McKinney noted. "But we've been there before.

"At that point in time that's gravy for us. Winning that sectional is our first big thing. That's the big thing for us -- what happens after that will happen."

Rick is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 20. He can be reached by email at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.

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