• 75°

Watts, Allen combine talents to win state

Meredith Allen and Courtney Watts both played tennis on the high school level but they had never played with or against each other until they arrived on the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson campus. A winning team was created when Co-Lin coach Holli Pepper put them together in women’s doubles.

Allen and Watts combined talents and marched to a MACJC State Tournament No. 3 doubles championship at the close of the season. The next week they were runners-up in the NJCAA Region Tournament.

Allen, a 5-foot-4 freshman from Brookhaven Academy only played one year of high school tennis. She mainly played softball for the Lady Cougars and her father, Coach Ricky Allen.

Allen-Watts won No. 3 doubles in the state tourney. After a bye in first round, they played two matches. They defeated Itawamba 6-4, 7-5 in the championship finals.

In the regional finals the following week, they lost a tough decision to Meridian in split sets, 3-6, 7-5, 7-4.

“Coach Pepper put us together in the middle of the season,” said Allen. “We just hit it off.”

Recalling her first assignment with the Lady Wolves, Allen said, “I had never played singles before I came to Co-Lin. I love doubles.”

At Co-Lin, Allen played No. 6 singles and Watts plays No. 4 singles. Watts was runner-up in the state tournament singles and third in the regionals.

How about that winning combination?

Allen said, “Courtney is very encouraging. Any time the ball went out (of bounds) and I got down on myself, she immediately lifted me back up.”

Apparently, their days as teammates have come to a close. There won’t be a title defense in 2014.

Allen is headed for Mississippi State and Watts is going to Southern Miss or Pearl River Community College in pursuit of a degree in physical therapy. Allen plans to major in elementary education, with a goal of teaching either math or science.

Watts has been playing singles since 8th grade. Her parents, Jason and Heather Watts, were both standout athletes at Loyd Star. Her mother was an all-state center for Loyd Star’s Lady Hornets, leading them to a state championship in 1991. Her father played football and baseball.

Courtney’s mother and grandmother (Debbie Ratcliff) are both physical therapists. That expertise has been an asset because of her numerous ankle and knee injuries. Her athletic career has been a frustrating story of pain and suffering.

However, her high level of courage and determination kept her in athletics and worked as an inspiration to other athletes who have been injured on the field of battle.

“I’ve had five knee surgeries,” Watts pointed out. “I got back to playing in January. It was very emotional for me to come back and win state.”

Watts, a talented athlete, began coping with injuries at an early age. She said, “I’ve been in physical therapy since the sixth grade. I sprained both my ankles in the sixth grade.”

She had her first ACL knee surgery in the 10th grade. “I’ve had two ACL surgeries, four or five meniscus tears and then my quad muscle was torn. The last surgery was reconstruction knee surgery. The doctor tightened my ligaments.”

At 5-foot-7, she displayed plenty of potential in basketball at Loyd Star. However, her knees wouldn’t cooperate.

“I love tennis,” said Watts. “Basketball was where I got hurt the most. I got hurt in the finals of the state tennis tournament.”

Watts vividly remembers the scene in Jackson. She was vying for the Class 2A State Tournament singles crown. “We were probably five minutes into the game. That’s when I tore my quad and meniscus.”

More therapy. She can sympathize with the difficult challenge that college and professional athletes encounter on the comeback trail.

“My heart just goes out to those players who have knee surgery,” said Watts. “The rehab takes a while. It can make a grown man cry.”

She said her time playing tennis with Allen at Co-Lin has been enjoyable. “I love playing with Meredith. She is really great at volleys. I’ll set it up and she can smash it down their throat.”

Although a state title finally has been achieved, Watts said she hopes to continue playing tennis. “I might play tennis at Southern.”

In the meantime, both girls have good reason to celebrate their success.