FOUNTAIN LAKE — The Fountain Lake tennis team received good news last week just ahead of the new season.
The Lady Cobras finished first and second individually in last year’s Class 4A-7 district tournament on the way to a co-conference championship when Lainey Mungle defeated teammate Paige Davis in the singles title match. Both players were sophomores last year and were expected to make an impact as juniors in 2022.
However, both Mungle and Davis are also basketball players, and Davis elected to skip out on tennis this year to focus on basketball — or so she thought. Mungle convinced her teammate and classmate to rejoin the tennis team last week, and now the Lady Cobras are back to full strength. The juniors can put their two-sport expertise to work on the tennis courts.
“I really think it’s very helpful,” Mungle said. “I can see like in both sports they grow off each other and build. All the work I’ve put into both definitely benefits both.”
After making it to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament last year, Mungle has been working on improving her serves ahead of the new season.
“(Lainey has) been putting a lot of time in,” Fountain Lake head tennis coach Chris Mungle said. “She’s getting where she’s stronger. She’s grown out a little bit. She’s playing in a lot of tournaments during the summer, putting a lot of time in.”
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The junior worked specifically on adding a kick serve to her in-match repertoire.
“The thing I’ve been pleased with her (is) when she was younger she would get down and get down on herself,” Chris Mungle said. “She’s played several matches this summer that she got down in then fought back. She’s becoming a lot more of a mentally tough tennis player than what she was. She’s growing up and maturing. She’ll be a junior this year so I’m expecting her to do big things.”
Lainey Mungle looks to make a deeper run in the state tournament this season and highlighted the importance of a tennis player’s mindset.
“I think my biggest personal strengths are being able to keep my mindset right and not get too worked up or anything,” she said. “I think that helps a lot. That’s very important to me. I’m very emotional sometimes, and that’s good to keep your head right. Keep the right head space.”
While Fountain Lake has two solid girls on the roster this year, the Lady Cobras did lose some talent to graduation.
“I lost my doubles team last year that was real competitive,” Chris Mungle said. “They both graduated. We’re going to be a little short on numbers in the girls. I got quite a few boys out this year. Got a lot of young boys coming out so things are looking good for the future.”
Despite losing some important members of the roster, the Lady Cobras’ star already did the work to recruit her classmate back, and she has a positive outlook ahead of the season.
“I think our team will be pretty solid this year,” Lainey Mungle said. “We’ve won district the last two years, and I hope we can do that again.”
Fountain Lake sent just one boys player to the state tournament last season, but the Cobras’ numbers are looking good, especially with a lot of young talent on the court.
“Boys — I got (Andrew) Bledsoe back,” Chris Mungle said. “He probably should’ve qualified last year for state. He got beat in the game to get into the state. … I’ve got a couple of young kids that started (tennis) last year. They’ve really put a lot of time in.”
Junior Paul Combs started playing tennis again recently and instantly started putting the time in to get better. He first picked up a racket when he was 12 years old, but after playing for two years he stepped away from the game for a couple of years when he moved to Fountain Lake.
“Once I started back up again it was pretty difficult, but I got the hang of it,” Combs said. “I feel like I’ve improved a whole lot. Last year I remember playing against our top boy that I couldn’t even measure up to. This year just a while ago I played a little game against him, and I beat him. It felt really great. All the hard work I had, it made me feel great.”
After the end of last season, Combs got right back to work on the court with coaches and practiced on his own time.
“Whenever my brother had a basketball game and it wasn’t until 7, I would practice up here for four hours after school ended all the way until his game,” Combs said. “I just did that until the season starts this year.”
Combs still looks to improve different aspects of his game but also makes sure to enjoy just being on the court with fellow teammates.
“My serve, my first one is pretty good, but I want to get it inside the box a little bit more,” he said. “And I need to work on my second serve. But overall I just want to make friends with everybody and play against some good people to see how I measure up with everybody else.”
Chris Mungle said the boys team is still trying to sort itself out in terms of who is playing singles and who is playing doubles this season.
“Bledsoe, I’m expecting big things from him,” the coach said. “Bledsoe is a senior, and he’s really wanting to play doubles this year. So we don’t know how it’s going to play out. I’ve got three strong players in the boys. I’ve got a lot of younger kids that are coming up too.”
Arkadelphia remains the team to beat on the boys side of the 4A-7, and Chris Mungle said that realistically in the conference, Fountain Lake is aiming for a second-place finish.
“We have the players to finish second in the league,” he said. “That’s my goal for us. Of course, I don’t want to sound pessimistic and not say first because we’d love to, but those two (at Arkadelphia) are really good. In the boys as a coach, I’m wanting to try to finish second in the league.”
While a tough tussle with the Badgers awaits, the Cobras continue to improve.
“The boys team, they’re great,” Combs said. “Every one of these boys has come a long way ever since last year. I remember when I had joined up with some of them and they were about the same level as I am. Now they can compete with everybody here. I feel like we’re going to be pretty good this year.”