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Pleasantly surprised and excited, two former Bulldogs will compete in Jackson this July in a Mississippi All-Star tennis tournament.
Friends make great tennis partners
Jacob Rowland and Karl David Capaning have both played tennis since the fifth grade, and have competed with and against one another for several years.
"My dad was trying to find a family sport for us to play, so I guess tennis was one of his ideas for us," Capaning said of how he became interested in the game. "I remember starting about the fifth grade and having a really old racket."
The USTA program in New Albany helped the two learn the fundamentals, and eventually they became teammates at New Albany High.
"We always have a good time. We go out there and practice every day for a couple of hours and have a good time," Rowland said of playing for the Bulldogs. "It's not like a big team sport where you have to have so many people to play. You can just have another person and go play."
Both Capaning and Rowland have experienced success while at NAHS, as Capaning made it to the semifinals of the 4A state tournament in boys doubles, and Rowland was runner-up in mixed doubles in 2008. Paired together in 2009, the duo made it to the state championship in boys doubles before falling to Oxford. The two also helped lead the Bulldogs to three division titles in five years.
"Our first match of the year was pretty tough," Rowland laughed. "It was pretty bad, but it got better."
"We've been good friends anyway, so it just transferred onto the court, and that helped a lot," Capaning added on their recent success.
Coach knows best
NAHS head coach Warner Creekmore saw a lot of potential in pairing Capaning and Rowland together, and that resulted in their success in 2009.
"They're both incredible," Creekmore said. "They stand for what’s right, and they both care about the sport. They’re respectful of other people, and both are unbelievable and brilliant, well-rounded individuals. I’ll miss them a lot next year because they're just good people to be around."
Their success led to Creekmore nominating them for the All-Star tournament.
"Every year we're allowed to nominate the seniors on our team, and it's been a real treat because they were both selected," Creekmore explained. "Normally only one athlete is selected from each school, but both were deserving by a landslide."
Neither of the two realized they were even nominated until after their selection, which was a surprise for both.
"I was surprised because I didn't think we would get it," Capaning said. "I thought it was a pretty appropriate award for us considering all the time and work we've put into it. It seemed deserving, but still surprising since we didn't even know we were nominated for it."
Looking ahead to the future
Both Capaning and Rowland will attend Mississippi State next year and plan to be roommates. Neither will play tennis competitively, but both know it is a game that will always be with them.
I'm sure we'll play intramurals," Capaning said. "My dad has been talking to me about playing on the adult league team once I turn 18, so I'll probably be doing that."
"You see so many people in town that are still playing, and they started younger or started later in life, and you still see them playing," Rowland added. "They compete on adult league teams and stuff like that, and I think I would enjoy doing that."
"They've both been involved in tennis in the community since they were about eight or nine," Creekmore said. "You know that they're both the type who will be contributing to this area with the sport in years to come."
The pair will be competing on June 16th in the All-Star match in Jackson.