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Get to know senior tennis players Smith and Swafford
Ben Swafford awaits the serve of the White County doubles team. Swafford has been able to steadily improve his tennis skills through his longtime friendship with doubles partner Connor Scroggins. - photo by Rio White

This season, the Dawson County High School tennis teams have found success in both singles and doubles competition. Several seniors have been part of that success, including Blake Smith on the girls team and Ben Swafford on the boys team.

Smith began her tennis career in eighth grade, briefly trying out soccer her freshman year before returning to tennis as a sophomore. 

She was drawn back to tennis in part due to the sense of personal accountability that comes with an individual sport. Her skills on the court have been able to improve as a result of that constant reflection.

“I like being by myself for sure. [Singles] is a smaller court, so I know I have to get every ball,” Smith said. “Whenever I play doubles for fun…I kind of go for everything even when I’m not supposed to, so it messes me up.”

As part of a group that has gone undefeated in team play so far this season, Smith has shown growth both in physical and mental aspects of her game.

One strength that she highlighted was her finishing shots, which have allowed her to build up points quickly without having to be stuck in long rallies.

Her prowess from the baseline has paired well with an improved sense of confidence, having faced occasional struggles last season due to placing pressure on herself within games and sets.

Blake Smith prepares to hit a forehand shot against her White County opponent. Smith enjoys the individuality of singles tennis and how it allows her to hone in on her skills. - photo by Rio White

“The most improved part of my game is definitely [avoiding] getting in my head,” Smith said. “I would just get upset with my playing skills and it was just a downhill spiral from there.”

She has credited her success this season with her ability to move past small mistakes within a match so that the focus can remain on the bigger picture. By not getting upset at herself, Smith has been able to find consistency.

Smith has already achieved the goal she set for herself at the beginning of the season by winning a majority of her matches.

Outside of tennis, Smith is a member of several school clubs and is an active member of her church, playing guitar at services there.

She plans to attend Auburn University for an undergraduate degree in a Pre-Physician Assistant career track before attending PA school afterward.

Swafford’s tennis career has largely hinged on family and friends, with his cousin signing him up for the sport his freshman year. 

After joining the team, Swafford quickly partnered up with longtime friend Connor Scroggins. The two have formed a successful doubles team that relies on the natural communication between the pair.

“Since ninth grade, we have played every match together,” Swafford said. “He’s been my best friend since fourth grade.”

The doubles partnership is a direct reflection of that friendship, with Swafford using his strong serve and Scroggins returning shots at the net to efficiently wear down opponents.

Swafford has also improved his own game with the help of head coach Logan Allen. This year, Swafford is a part of the first senior class to play all four seasons under Allen.

Those seniors have helped lead the boys team to an undefeated record so far, with the confidence of Swafford playing an important role. While he does not have any special equipment, Swafford does credit his signature white headband as a necessity on court.

Part of the seniors’ success has been in their camaraderie, with Swafford mentioning that he enjoys watching and learning from his teammates, especially Zach Friday.

Outside of tennis, Swafford currently works as a staff member at Dawson County Parks and Rec and plans on working for his father’s company as an electrician after graduation. He also plans to introduce his future children to tennis.