Lamar tennis sending six to MAIS State Championship

Lamar's Collier McRae (left) and Miller Hodge are one of three teams competing for Lamar in...
Lamar's Collier McRae (left) and Miller Hodge are one of three teams competing for Lamar in Thursday's MAIS Class 4A State Championship(WTOK Sports)
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 11:35 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Like all high school spring sports in 2020, Lamar School saw its tennis season get cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

It was unfortunate, but the team accepted it. Then in April, the team was hit with a tragedy they never saw coming.

Lamar tennis coach Bill Autry died of a heart attack at the age of 56. He served as the Raider’s head coach for more than a decade, leading them to a state championship in spring of 2019.

This year marked the first season without Coach Autry.

Tennis sponsor and Lamar Head of School Leigh Ann Ballou said it’s been “tough” for the team, especially last month on the one-year anniversary of his passing.

Senior Morgan Mitchell said it’s been hard without Coach Autry, but they’ve tried to persevere and make him proud.

“It’s kinda been sad, but it’s been good,” Mitchell said. “We’ve done good as a team. I’m glad we got to have a season for our senior year.”

Autry helped build the program up during his time at Lamar, and the Raiders are hoping to carry on that winning tradition at Thursday’s Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class 4A State Championship.

The Raiders have two boys doubles teams and one girls doubles team that will be playing on Thursday.

Mitchell and fellow senior Bayleigh Brent make up the girls team. Seniors Collier McRae and Miller Hodge are one of the boys teams while juniors Austin Dungan and Austin Carle are the other.

Dungan and Carle recently won the North State Championship for boys doubles and are hoping to carry that success with them into Thursday’s championship.

“We’ve won every match we’ve far,” Dungan said with a laugh. “We had great team support when he competed at North State which is awesome. It’s no fun to not have that.”

Hodge is hoping he can end his final sporting event at Lamar on a good note and bring back a title for the Raiders, especially since a member of his family has already done so.

“My sister won back when she was a senior....usually someone wins every year for Lamar,” Hodge said. “With it being the final event of my career at Lamar it would be awesome to go out as a State Champion.”

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