“I feel kind of bad . . . their matches aren’t going to count towards varsity scoring,” girls’ varsity tennis coach Susie Luten said.
Luten is referring to players in varsity positions seven through twelve who, as a result of the large number of incoming players this year, will not contribute to the team’s overall score.
With over forty players, the girls’ tennis team as a whole has gained an unusual number of competitors this year. This influx is so unusual, in fact, that the layout of matches has drastically changed. Because the team frequently has more players than opposing teams, there is a surplus of girls who either do not play at all, or who play against players on the opposing team who double back, playing a total of two matches or more.
Luten is hopeful that these girls will still improve their skills during practice.
“I still feel that most performing comes in the practices, so most get to work on their skills,” Luten said.
Even practice, however, has been in jeopardy for some girls, due to the lack of courts. The team is at capacity even with four girls on a court at a time practicing doubles. This means many girls on both Junior Varsity and Varsity will not have the opportunity to practice singles this year.
But the results are not all bad. Although physically contributing to the influx, returning players are unanimous in their appreciation of new players, especially pointing out an increase in team bonding and friendship.
“Friendship and connection transfers onto the court and makes solid, fluent games,” CHS senior Mia Redington said. During the season, the team has gone out to breakfast, had sleepovers and even had water balloon fights.
Redington and fellow senior Isabel Alter are the JV team captains. They have organized and will continue to organize numerous events that allow for team bonding.
New freshmen players have also benefitted the team on the court, many referred to as having exceptional talents, such as Madeline Blatt, Anna Walsh and Belle Gage.
“I think they are a great addition to the team, I am so happy they didn’t fall on varsity”, Jennifer Mckeown said, coach of the JV girls’ tennis team.
Luten agrees that the team’s physical organization has improved due to the increase in players.
“This also makes it easier because with twelve, we don’t have to pull anyone up from JV or back from varsity, I just have my team and Jen has hers. I think this a better way to do it.”
Senior Maddie Markenson, four year member of the CHS tennis team said, “In past years when we’ve had eight, we would always bring along four JV players with us. They played with us so much that they felt like part of the team. It just makes it better that there are 12 now because everyone feels like they are an official part of the team.”
Markenson is one of the varsity players whose match scores do not count, but continues to have a positive outlook on her role as a player.
“I like the girls I play with, and usually it’s good competition for me at my rank. I play because I enjoy it and it’s fun so I’m happy with almost whatever I’m doing for the team” Markenson said.
Mckeown has also noticed improved team dynamics with the arrival of new players this year, specifically between Blatt and Gage as doubles partners.
“I think they work really well together, particularly Belle and Madeline already have a really good chemistry as a doubles team”, Mckeown said. “I think Anna is a really strong player from the baseline, and she partners well with lots of people”.
Even though the high number of players has its drawbacks, the freshmen tennis players are experienced players compared to former years.
“What has changed is that I think over the past few years, we haven’t had as many strictly beginner players,” Mckeown said. “We have more people coming in that have had some tennis experience, or at least know how to keep score, which makes it really fun for me to start getting match-playing quicker.”
No matter the numbers, Luten’s purpose has also always been the same.
“My purpose for coaching and what I see for highschool tennis is to grow the game and have people love school, love being on the team and really enjoying the sport,” she said.