Bobcat Seniors reflect on state tennis ‘Adventure’

Published 3:01 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

BOGUE CHITTO — Senior doubles partners Jax Leggett and Andrew Merrell went the furthest of any local MHSAA Class I school in the individual state tournament this week in Oxford. They reached the state finals match and lost to finish as state title runners-up. 

Leggett and Merrell said it was a great experience and opportunity to compete for Bogue Chitto on the grand stage. The tournament was also an adventure for Leggett, who also plays baseball. 

Bogue Chitto played Scott Central in the first round of the baseball playoffs and played the second game of the series in Forest Monday night. Leggett said after the game, he drove up to Oxford to play on the first day of the individual state tournament and made it there by 2 a.m. 

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“I went to sleep, got up and played my first round match at 8:45. We beat East Union and then had to play a young but good Tupelo Christian Team. We got done at 3:30 p.m.,” Leggett said. “I had to drive back to Bogue Chitto to play in game three at 7:15. I got there at 6:50 with enough time to get changed and throw a little bit. We won and I was packed up and ready to go back to Oxford.” 

He said he was a little tired after the cross-state traveling but once he got on the court he managed to tune out the fatigue. 

“It was all mind over matter. My partner Andrew hyped me up. He is good at getting me pumped up and we were able to play,” Leggett said. “My mom (Neisha Leggett) helped a lot. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her. She drove most of the way. Without her I wouldn’t have been able to make it.” 

Merrell’s week was a little different than Legget’s. He said he was able to relax in Oxford as his other sport obligations, soccer and football, were finished. When he was not playing tennis, Merrell was relaxing, resting and mentally preparing for games. 

A special opportunity

Merrell said reaching the state championship game was very difficult. 

Bogue Chitto and other small public schools have tennis players who play more than one sport in the spring and must live in their district. Parochial private schools like St. Andrews and Resurrection Christian are able to recruit tennis players out of their districts and don’t have the same restrictions public schools like Bogue Chitto do. 

Merrell said it takes a lot of work and dedication to reach the state finals. He spent many days hitting and practicing making sure he was prepared for the tournament in addition to soccer and football practice. 

“You have to really want it. Me and Jax wanted it. It was a dream of ours to get a state championship before we graduated. We are proud of where we came,” Merrell said. “It is intimidating playing in the final. You know what is on the line and you know if you mess up you will have to deal with coming in second. It is a fun experience. I’m grateful I was able to experience something like that, that many people do not.” 

Leggett and Merrell fell 1-6, 1-6 to two solid players from Resurrection Christian. He said he was able to appreciate the cool experience with Bogue Chitto fully supporting him. 

“We had a lot of people from home supporting me. They all wished me luck. I love the chance to compete. It was a dream come true. Ever since I started playing tennis I always wanted to be in the run for a state championship,” Leggett said. “There wasn’t a lot of pressure. Props to those Resurrection Kids. They were really good competition and they played a little bit better than we did. All good things come to an end. My last match as a Bobcat, that team, means so much. They are all family. We all support one another. Coach Chase has been there forever and helped me along. To the ones who practiced with me, it is a bond you can’t break. It is a great experience but it is also tough knowing it is your last one. It is a bittersweet moment.” 

The next step

Bogue Chitto will travel up to Jackson Friday night to play St. Andrews in the second round of the baseball playoffs and will play game two at home Saturday. It could be the last baseball series for Leggett. 

Graduation is coming up on May 16 and then it will be time for Leggett and Merrell to go on to college. Leggett has not decided where he will play college tennis but he does plan to play tennis. 

Merrell said he plans to go to Holmes to play football and will start working out and training for football next week. The Bobcat kicker will kick next year. His plan is to study physical therapy. 

“I have always enjoyed helping people out with the physical aspect. It is my strong suit. I enjoy being physically active,” Merrell said. “I have realized that being on the field I want to help has been what I’ve always wanted to do.” 

Several of Merrell’s teammates will play tennis in college so he plans to help them out when he can. His Bogue Chitto tennis career is over and what a ride it has been. 

“I’ll miss every part of tennis. Especially my team, my buddies. It is a family type thing. We love to hang out and will continue,” Merrell said. “We are like a family. It is always fun. We are always doing something fun and we try to make the most out of everything.”