Alice Johns is the latest junior to represent Northants across the complete span of age levels and will front the 16U County cause on Saturday in the final winter round of the 12 Counties competition at Corby.
Johns, who plays her tennis at County LTC, played a valued role in the inexperienced county girls’ remarkable performance in avoiding relegation in last week’s 18U National Championships in Norwich, even though she is still just 15.
Just 12 months earlier, she had barely nudged into the line-up at number six singles.
A year down the line she found herself at the top of the list, admittedly for a county which has never boasted strength in depth.
Her progress has been of the ‘softly softly’ variety, playing her club tennis at County LTC in Weston Favell while having individual coaching with James Buswell.
However, as her father Richard pointed out, the benefits of taking on board crumbs of learning from a variety of coaches and locking them together should not be under-estimated.
“I think it is like putting together pieces of a jigsaw,” he said.
“Alice has probably picked up different helpful tips from several coaches such as the Australian Brett McLennon, Steve Biss at County and James Haley.
“For this reason, one of her friends in Leicestershire has a dad who believes the coach should be changed every 12 months no matter what, but that is taking it to an extreme.
“Alice is the one who wants to continue to improve.
At the moment she is no more than a solid county player.
“She isn’t the first to have represented Northants from the minis right through to senior level (she made her senior debut, scoring wins at the Winter National Championships in Boston) but it does say something for her.
“She is on the edge of the national picture and wants to build on that this year.”
One of Johns’ immediate predecessors in representing Northants at all junior ages is Cassandra Dix, currently in the final two months of her first year at university in Iowa.
Dix headed off for warmer climes this week on her university spring break to Tennessee where three teams were lined up in opposition.
She admitted playing number two singles and in the top pair doubles has been tough.
But she still has a 6/6 win/loss ratio in singles, while just coming out ahead in doubles.
“I’ve lost a couple of three-set tie-breaks in the singles which is annoying, but there are no easy wins,” she said.
“However, the team has an 8/4 win/loss record so we are doing pretty well.”
“We start our conference matches in another fortnight and those are the most important ones.”