Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Support System Is Strength at Trinity; Teammates Helped Each Other Cope with Their Grandparents' Deaths during the Season

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Support System Is Strength at Trinity; Teammates Helped Each Other Cope with Their Grandparents' Deaths during the Season

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCINE KING

Last week, the Trinity Christian girls tennis team won the school's first district and regional tennis titles to earn a spot in the Class A state finals, which begin Tuesday.

Today's trip to Tallahassee is the climax of a season that has been anything but predictable for the Conquerors.

Two of Trinity's players had to deal with the death of their grandmothers earlier this season, and then just four days before the District 3-A tournament, sisters Kimberly and Kathryn Jackson also had a grandparent die.

They buried their grandfather, Frank "Charlie" Jackson, on the first day of districts.

"We had a match scheduled right during the funeral, but one of the coaches, [St. Johns Country Day's Jenny Howayeck], was very sweet, and they delayed the match for us," said Kathryn Jackson, 14. "It was hard.

"We just had to focus a lot harder, which makes the fact that we won even better because we fought through everything, and we did it for Pop, so we know he'd be proud of us."

Kathryn said Charlie, who turned 80 three days before his death, liked coming with their grandmother, Vivian, to watch his granddaughters' matches.

Kimberly and Kathryn won the district singles titles at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, and also teamed to claim the No. 2 doubles championship.

Though those victories were slightly bittersweet, their teammates offered plenty of emotional support -- support that also had been extended to seniors Brandi Smith and Molly Verlin earlier this year.

Smith's maternal grandmother, Harriet Haynes, who lived with her most of her life, died about a month ago at age 71, and Verlin's paternal grandmother, Angela Verlin, died in early March at age 89.

"We all support each other," Molly Verlin said. "It's just made us stronger together."

The team's emotional bond -- and a lot of hard work during the offseason -- helped the Conquerors pull off a one-point upset of district favorite Episcopal last week -- with a little help from some of their opponents. …

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