Fitness is key for title contender Maury boys tennis

NORFOLK (WAVY) – Before a single racket is picked up or a single serve delivered, the Maury boys’ tennis team begins every practice with a lot of sweat.

The Commodores will start every session with a three-mile run around the courts that sit behind the school, then proceed to agility drills, sprinting, and a number of modified suicides.

“I remember my freshman year coming in thinking, ‘Oh this will be a breeze,’ but it’s a workout, it gets you in shape,” said junior Ethan Willingham. It’s the philosophy that’s helped Janita Burgess Hess build one of the most consistent programs in Hampton Roads during her five years as head coach.

“Normally it takes us until 9:00 pm to beat you,” said Hess. “Most of my courts will go three sets, but when we hit that third set, my guys are still grinding, and everybody else is putting their hands on their knees and suckin’ wind.”

It’s all about endurance. Hess believes opposing teams may have the better players, but they won’t have the better-conditioned players. Her teams have only lost three regular season matches since she took over the program.

“I don’t care who they are, I just assume they’re going to beat me. So, I practice as if I’m playing Princess Anne every day,” said Hess.

The Commodores (11-1, 10-0 in conference), who just beat Green Run on Wednesday,are once again in the mix for a region and state championship, led by Willingham and a very deep squad.

“I want to win a state championship pretty bad,” said Willingham.

No doubt a number of other programs are after the same thing, but if they want to make it through Maury, they better come prepared with Gatorade, and be ready to run.