Local families team up in 35th Natchez cancer tourney
NATCHEZ — Generations assembled as four mother and daughter teams met up at Duncan Park on a sunny Friday afternoon to compete in the 35th annual Natchez Community Cancer Tennis Tournament.
The first team of mother and daughters that arrived for the first set of matches in the three-day tournament were Augusta and Mattie Smith. With 33 years separating the two, mother, Augusta, and daughter, Mattie, warmed up on opposite sides of the court, mirroring each other’s playing style by arching their backs and gritting their teeth.
“They always say when we come out to these things that you can’t tell us apart,” Mattie said.
Augusta, who Mattie proclaimed was the best tennis player in the family, said she’s participated in many of the Natchez cancer tournaments throughout the years, and she even won the event two years ago with Mattie by her side.
“Win or lose, it’s always fun,” Augusta said. “I can remember coming out here when my kids were tiny, tiny.”
Lisa and Ashley Sandel walked to the registration tent with Lisa being the calm, cool and collected mom while Ashley touted her eagerness to hit the courts. Spoken like the competitor she is, Ashley, who is one year removed from playing tennis at Cathedral High School as a senior, said she was going to bring some friendly trash talk to the event.
“I already warned (Lisa) not to get mad at me if I get mean on the court,” said Ashley, laughing while she put her arm around her mother.
Meanwhile, Noreen Pyron awaited the arrival of her daughter, Phebe Martin, who was traveling from St. Martinsville, La. Martin was anxious to play, as this would be her first major tennis action in eight years.
“I haven’t played tennis in a long time,” Martin said. “It’s fun to get back into playing.”
The duo lost in the opening round in a tiebreaker to the Smiths., while the Sandels were victorious and moved on to play in the second round today.
Pyron, who organized the tournament, said the proceeds being raised this year were going to go directly to Camp Rainbow in Mississippi, which is a five-day camp dedicated to pediatric cancer patients and survivors between the ages of 6-17. Pyron, who participates in the tournament every year, was excited to finally get to play with her daughter again, as both have grown up playing tennis.
As did Weasy Mallory and Beth Foster, who not only played the game but coached at the high school level.
Mallory coached tennis at Cathedral High School, and years later, her daughter, Foster, would embrace the role as Cathedral tennis coach. Foster’s daughter and current Cathedral tennis player, Paige Foster, begged her to fill the vacant position.
“I kept it in the family,” Mallory said.
The same can be said about each mother and daughter tandem that participated in the event, as each shared a passion for the game of tennis, which has brought each mother and daughter together again for a fun, competitive weekend.