Neill seeking fourth tennis title|[05/07/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 7, 2007

From Jeff Byrd

Bonney Neill’s remarkable athletic career closes Tuesday with the Class 1A state tennis tournament at Ridgeland Tennis Center.

A three-sport athlete, Neill is also a three-time doubles champion at the state tournament. The St. Aloysius senior will look to earn a fourth doubles title when she pairs with Lauren Fordice in the girls doubles division.

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While Neill’s best success has come in tennis, it’s not her favorite sport.

&#8220Swimming is my favorite. It’s my natural sport. I owe a lot of my love for it to coach Bruce Ebersole,” Neill said Saturday before playng in the Julie Abraham Memorial Tournament.

Swimming would probably be the one sport Neill would have liked to try in college but she has plans to enter the nursing program at Ole Miss.

&#8220And they don’t have a swimming program. I guess, I’ll just play intramurals,” Neill said.

While her long, 6-foot frame has helped both in swimming and basketball, where she started at center for the Lady Flashes, it‘s also been a big part of her success in tennis.

&#8220She’s a really good net player. She can just dominate things at the net,” said Fordice, who got to team up with her best friend in their senior season for St. Al.

Previously, Neill won a state title in girls doubles in 2004 playing with her sister, Carrie. She then won back-to-back titles in mixed doubles with Jeremy White, which included a dominating two-set romp in the Class 1A final last year against East Webster.

During a two-year span with White, the pair racked up a 27-1 record. The only loss came to a strong Class 5A team from Northwest Rankin.

&#8220I really liked playing mixed doubles a lot. It was a lot more competitive for me, because there was always another guy across the net,” Neill said.

&#8220What I tried to do with Jeremy was always attack the opposing girl and that worked for us,” she said.

&#8220Consistency,” was the answer given by St. Al tennis coach Leonard Banks for Neill’s success in doubles. &#8220She learned a lot by playing doubles with her sister, Carrie. It helped her to play with a dominant player like Carrie was.

&#8220Bonney would take up the slack. This year, she’s had to be the one to make things happen. She’s had to do more,” Banks said.

Basketball may have helped Neill ease into a leadership role this season. She was one of two seniors on a Lady Flashes team that went 21-9, won the Division 7-1A Tournament for the first time in school history, and then advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

&#8220It was awesome,” Neill said. &#8220We went further than we ever had, it was a lot of fun and we had a good coach.”

Neill and Fordice will open the state tournament Tuesday morning at 10 against French Camp’s Kayton Hosket and Emily Henderson.

A win there would put Neill in the finals for the fourth straight year, but another title could prove difficult.

&#8220Cathedral is really good,” she said of the Green Waves’ team of Cami Willard and Madeline Beard. &#8220That’s who we would probably see in the finals. We lost to them pretty bad, earlier this season. They are good.”


Today, 9 a.m. – Class 5A tournament, at Parham Bridges Park, Jackson

Tuesday, 9 a.m. – Class 5A tournament, at Parham Bridges Park, Jackson

Tuesday, 10 a.m. – Class 1A tournament, at Ridgeland Tennis Center