Meridian Star

Sports

March 20, 2014

Newton County senior going for win No. 100 today vs. NEL

DECATUR — In his 19 years as tennis coach at Newton County High School, Chad Bond has seen good players come and go.

But senior Shannon St. Clair stands out to him for one reason — she’s one win away from 100 match victories, a feat that puts her in a class of just a few.

In fact, Bond said he’s had trouble finding out exactly who else has won 100 games in Mississippi high school history.

“I’m not sure what the state record is, but whatever she ends up with has to be close,” Bond said. “I don’t know how many people have (won 100 matches), but it can’t be many. The most I’ve confirmed is 105. I’m still talking to coaches trying to see if anyone knows.”

A singles player, St. Clair and the rest of her Newton County teammates are set to square off against Northeast Lauderdale High School today. A win today would mean history for St. Clair, but she said she isn’t any more nervous now than she was before she got to 99.

“I’ve been told I would hit 100 since last year,” St. Clair said. “It’s been so long that we’ve been talking about it that it’s not as big a deal.”

St. Clair admitted, however, that the record is in the back of her mind during matches.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it feels good to know I’m where a lot of people haven’t been,” she said.

Bond explained that postseason rules in MHSAA changed to a postseason format in 2008, which allowed teams who won their division to go into a playoff series in their quest for a state title. That allows an additional few matches to be played per year for a playoff team than the number they were playing before the change.

“Before the rule change, winning 100 matches was just hard to do,” Bond said. “If we were to advance deep into the playoffs, she’s on pace to win 115 to 120 matches.”

St. Clair credits God-given talent and a lot of time with her dad, Steve St. Clair, as the reasons she’s had so much success on the court. When Shannon was young, she said she, her dad and her brother, Brandon, would all go out to the courts to play.

As she got older, Shannon said her father began to push her to seriously devote time to the sport. When she was in fifth grade, she was already practicing with the junior varsity squad at Newton County.

“That was a huge deal,” Shannon said.

Though he’s worked with her a lot, Shannon said her father picked up tennis much later in his life than she did hers.

“He didn’t start playing until after college, and he just fell in love with the game,” Shannon said.

By contrast, Shannon will play on the East Central Community College tennis squad next year with her bother, who is already a member of the team.

“I saw how much he enjoyed it, and I got to hang out with the team, and I honestly enjoyed being around them,” she said.

In the meantime, Shannon said she’s going to focus on win No. 100 and another goal — winning a state title. Since she started playing for Newton County in the eighth grade, the team has been state runners-up three times, but never state champions.

“A state title would be sweeter (than winning 100),” Shannon said. “For a lot of teams, being runners-up would be a big accomplishment, but not for us, because we’ve sort of gotten used to it. State champs is where we want to be.”

Bond said Shannon has been a pleasure to coach, and he’s allowed her to do her own thing when it comes to her style of play.

“My philosophy is, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “A lot of her strokes you won’t find on any training videos, but they work for her. She’s a very smart player. She beats you with her head more than anything.”

Shannon is a strong student, having scored a 30 on the ACT. She is also the daughter of Myriam St. Clair.

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