Taking center court: Best friends begin final season together as Rebels

Published 3:56 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022

NATCHEZ — Adams County Christian School’s Regan Rabb won the Rebels’ only court against Copiah Academy in varsity play. Nicole Gaston said the rest of the team dealt with players out sick or hurt, which changed up some of the doubles pairings Monday afternoon.

Doubles partners and seniors Madi Cooley and Olivia Edgin played a close competitive game against Copiah. The Rebels won the first set 6-3, lost the second set 6-4 and lost the tiebreaker 10-8. 

It was the first match for them to play together this season as Edgin was out sick last week when AC played Central Hinds. They have been doubles partners for the past two years and best friends since fifth grade. 

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“I made Madi come to the courts earlier to hit some balls. I was getting nervous,” Edgin said. “Once we started playing, I fell back into rhythm.” 

They played strong in the first set of the match, but in the second set, things started to turn. A strong northern wind brought clouds and cold temperatures. It was a stark contrast to the sunny first set. 

 Winds took the ball and pushed it past the court or made shots fall short of the net. It affected the doubles partners for AC and Copiah.

“It was a drastic change when the weather changed,” Cooley said. “I think we did way better in the first set. By the second set, we started worrying about things because of the wind.” 

The girls played in their first tiebreaker ever, which required Gatson and Copiah’s coach to come and officiate. Tiebreakers in tennis have different rules about serving and switching sides than regular games in tennis. 

Cooley said having the coaches right there was a little nerve-wracking. They couldn’t coach their players but could help them with any questions regarding the tiebreakers’ rules. 

“I don’t like it at all. I still don’t understand the rules. It is hard,” Edgin said. 

Start of senior season

After the match, Cooley and Edgin joked they had made a pact before where it was okay if they lost because it was their first game. They hope it is their only loss of the season.

“We want to win as many games together as we can,” Edgin said. “It’s sad starting my senior year. I don’t want it to end.”  

The two started playing tennis in eighth grade after a senior class begged them to give the sport a try. Five years later, the two are playing their final season together. 

Since they started playing tennis, they have spent countless hours practicing and improving their craft. Cooley occasionally played against her boyfriend Nolan Owens, who played tennis for the Rebels before graduating last season, to face harder hit balls. 

Former Natchez tennis director Henry Harris played a role in their development as tennis players, they said. Cooley said her serves are the most improved, as does Edgin. 

“When I get to serve, I feel like I’m in control of the game,” Edgin said. “I feel like Madi does well on the net. I feel like the games go easier that way. Today, I liked the net.” 

Her height helped get to some balls that might have been out of reach for other players. She jumped to get balls hit at the net almost over her head, although one did get above her, but Cooley had her back and returned the shot. 

Tennis isn’t the first sport for Cooley and Edgin. They started athletics in cheer. Edgin does balletl. In her leaps as the net player, Edgin has the grace of a ballet dancer. She said Gaston thinks her ballet feet may help her on the tennis court. 

After graduation, Cooley wants to go to college to study biology and become a vet. She also plans on playing soccer in college. Edgin plans to go to Ole Miss and possibly study journalism because she enjoys reading and writing. 

Close friends, teammates

Since fifth grade, Cooley and Edgin have been best friends. They begged Gaston to put them together as playing partners because of their friendship two years ago. 

In tennis, doubles partners have to play together and be on the same page. It requires good communication, and it also requires the players to have a sense of what the other will do. 

“We have to communicate, switch sides and call,” Edgin said. “It can be a challenge. Sometimes attitudes can be a problem. We are hard on ourselves. We have to crack a joke every once in a while.”

Playing doubles with a close friend is nice for Edgin because she doesn’t like to play with someone she doesn’t know. Cooley agreed with Edgin and said they have higher standards for themselves. 

Being best friends for so long helps them get through games where they may not meet those standards. They are like sisters, Cooley said. It can lead to times where they take out their emotions on each other, but they remain close. 

On the court, they have found a home in tennis. It is a game that allows Edgin and Cooley to have aggression and fun. 

“It is a comfortable game you can fall back on,” Cooley said. “If I’m bored, I’ll go to the courts and play.” 

“It’s a game you can always come back to,” Edgin said. “It has been a good sport, and I love having coach Gaston and Hawk (Harris).”