Jai Garris, a rising junior at Elizabethtown High School, was one of six girls who recently represented the Southern Region during the 25th annual World Team Tennis Junior National Championships. The event was held earlier this summer at the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Orlando, Florida.
The WTT Junior Nationals is considered a premier invitational event that often features many of the country’s most promising junior players competing on 16 co-ed teams from across the United States.
This year’s WTT Junior Nationals were the first in which Team Southern had two teams competing in the event. The region was represented by Team Southern Stars and Team Southern Heat, both of which consisted of three boys and three girls each from around the nine states comprising the USTA Southern Region. Garris competed as a member of Team Southern Heat, where she was joined by fellow Kentucky residents Davis Rowton of Paducah and Molly Null of Mayfield.
Both Team Southern squads were coached by Bill Riddle, the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at the University of Tennessee Southern in Pulaski, Tennessee. Riddle’s assistant coach was Jackson Vaughn, a current men’s tennis player at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Garris’s team finished second in its flight and seventh overall out of the 16 teams in the competition. Team Southern Stars followed right behind in eighth place.
The WTT Junior Nationals are another chapter of what has been a busy 2021 for Garris. As a sophomore competing in her first high school tennis season this spring due to her freshman season’s cancellation, the Lady Panther won girls’ singles titles for both the Lincoln Heritage Conference Tournament and the 5th Region Tournament. At the KHSAA State Tournament in Lexington, Garris made it to the quarterfinals in singles’ competition. She went on to be named to the 2021 KHSAA Girls’ All-State Tennis Team.
In addition to this tournament in Orlando, Garris also has recently competed in national tournaments in Texas, South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and South Carolina. In Kentucky, Garris recently won the Joe Creason State Championship in doubles with North Oldham’s Reagan Mangan and was the tournament’s runner-up in singles.