HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State tennis coach Tony Franklin has been looking forward to this week for a while. Both the Wallace State women’s and men’s tennis teams began fall practice on Monday, establishing a new era in the program.
“This first week has been great. Each player is working hard on and off the tennis court. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of young men and women to work with and get this ball rolling again,” said Franklin, who was hired in May after spending 26 seasons as the head coach at Benjamin Russell High School. “The players are trying to learn me and I’m learning them. We’re learning our strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a team.”
Wallace State tennis was previously a national title contender. Before the programs were discontinued in 2004, they accounted for four of the seven NJCAA national titles earned by Wallace State athletics and won multiple conference championships. The men’s program won NJCAA Division II titles in 1995 and 1996 and the women in 1995 and 1999.
Wallace State men’s player Cade Pressnell, an Austin High graduate, is excited about the prospects of rekindling the program’s strong tradition. Pressnell was Austin’s No. 1 player for four seasons and among the top players in the state during his high school career, including a 24-3 mark as a senior.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this first team. I honestly think we have a solid men’s team and can do some damage. It’s a good group to help bring tennis back to Wallace State,” Pressnell said. “There are a lot of guys on my team now I didn’t look forward to facing in high school. I’m glad we’re now on the same side.”
As a senior at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Wallace State women’s player Tempie Ennis was playing in a tournament at Austin earlier this year when Paul Creech, Wallace State’s tennis recruiter, approached Ennis about signing with the Lions.
Ennis quickly jumped at the chance to join Wallace State with her high school teammate Kelsi Wilson, who won the Class 6A doubles state championship earlier this year.
“I was set to go to Alabama because it was close to home. I always knew I would love to play college tennis, but I never thought of it as reality until Paul Creech saw me play. I also earned a couple of other offers, but I knew Wallace State is where I belong. I love it here,” said Ennis, who has received instruction throughout the years from former Wallace State tennis coach Glen Fanelli. “Coach Franklin has been amazing and is working us hard. I know we are going to be a strong team in the long run. We are going to be mentally prepared, and we have a lot of potential. I think we’re going to be exciting to watch.”
The women’s squad opens its fall schedule on Sept. 3 at Snead State. The men’s first match is Sept. 9-10 at Birmingham-Southern. The women host the lone home match of the fall on Oct. 22.
Franklin has been around the game his entire life. He played tennis at Sulligent High School and played collegiately at the former Brewer State College (now Bevill State) in Fayette and Huntingdon College in Montgomery.
Including Pressnell, members of men’s tennis team are Luke Bowden (Cullman High), Clint Watson (Cullman), Donnie Camp (Cullman), Hunter Manley (Cullman), Check Freeman (Cullman), Damon Calvert (West Point), Toddric Stallworth (Albertville) and Alex Carter (Arab).
Including Ennis, members of the women’s team are Emily Graves (Cullman), Nicki Rakestraw (Cullman), Kelsi Wilson (Hillcrest), Lakken Long (Muscle Shoals), Molly Whitlock (Saraland), Jasmine Johnson and Dakota Kirkpatrick.
Tim Garner is the Wallace State assistant tennis coach, and Jacob Lambert is the manager.
With the addition of men’s and women’s tennis, Wallace State now offers scholarships to potential athletes in 10 different sports, joining baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf and cheerleading.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit http://athletics.wallacestate.edu/
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 256-352-8443 direct
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu