Tennis team has mix of returning players, newcomers
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Grayling High School varsity girls tennis team’s numbers are down a little bit this year. The squad, which has two meets scheduled for this week, has a mix of returning players and athletes new to the sport.
“Our numbers are down slightly this year,” Coach Mark Sloan said. “I have 14 players with seven new to tennis and seven returning from last year of which six are seniors. I expect our singles lineup to be stronger than our doubles lineup due to the fact that many of our doubles players are new to tennis and have very little if any tennis experience.”
After the 2017 season, players from the squad helped introduce area young people to the sport of tennis. The program gave the players an opportunity to work on their skills while helping to build the ranks of the tennis squad for the future.
“At the end of last season we ran a (United States Tennis Association) 10-and-under program and had 27 children take part. Volunteers from our team went through training and helped run the program. It was encouraging to see the high number of children turn out for the program. My goal is to get rackets into the hands of younger players and help build our numbers and experience level as children transfer into the high school level,” Coach Sloan said.
For the 2018 spring season, official practice sessions began on March 12. The team had approximately two weeks of practice prior to spring break. The squad had to practice indoors due to court conditions and cold weather.
“This time of year is always hard. We are working to get athletes up to speed for our first match but are at the mercy of the weather. I am grateful to have the middle school gym as a practice option but we are limited in what we can do until we get out and on our courts,” Coach Sloan said.
In addition to the fundamentals, Coach Sloan said the players need to work on being “mentally strong.”
“Our team needs to continue to develop skills and work on being mentally strong during match play. Our mission is to have ‘grit’ to be strong and persevere. It is easy to throw in the towel when you are up against a strong opponent and our conference has some of the strongest opponents in our division. I want our girls to work to figure out their opponent’s weaknesses and not give in until the last point is played out,” Coach Sloan said.
The Lake Michigan Conference should offer challenging meets throughout the 2018 season.
“We play in a strong conference with Harbor Springs and (Traverse City St. Francis) always being powerhouses. East Jordan has a number one singles player that is among the best high school players I have seen play the game. I hope to turn matches against these competitors into a learning experience and throw in an upset or two. I hope to have enough depth to be competitive with a majority of the teams we face,” Coach Sloan said.
Coach Sloan said he would like the girls to learn the game and develop a love for tennis.
“Tennis is a sport these girls look forward to every year. I stress great sportsmanship while still trying to enjoy the match. My goal is for our athletes to leave tennis with a lifetime passion to play the sport and to pass on that passion. Last week I got a text message from a former player just before the start of her first college match; she was excited and nervous about her upcoming match. I reminded her of her love for the sport and encouraged her to relax and play her game,” Coach Sloan said.
The Vikings have a meet scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at East Jordan on Thursday, April 12.