Up until about one week before the beginning of the Hiland girls tennis season that started Monday, Aug. 14, head coach John Harris wasn’t even sure he’d have enough players to round out a complete team of seven varsity starters.
However, an injection of some youth late in the game provided Harris with 10 players, and when the Lady Hawks tackled Canton McKinley at Hiland on Aug. 14, Hiland was at least able to field a team. That they actually competed fairly well was a huge bonus, considering the limited time the girls have gotten in practice.
“It’s nice to have 10 kids,” Harris said. “We were really struggling to find enough, and I talked to all of the girls in choir at the end of last school year and encouraged them to come out. About one week before we got going, Emily Troyer decided to come out, and a few other girls decided to try out too, so we have enough. Emily was really the one who initiated what proved to be exactly what we needed in terms of numbers.”
One of those late-comers was junior Alexis Yoder, who ended up qualifying at first doubles with another newcomer, freshman Cozette Torrence. Harris said both have shown some skill, but he said Yoder could become a very good talent.
“She has some natural ability, and as she starts picking the game up, she is going to learn quickly,” Harris said. “She is going to be a good one.”
Harris also said senior Lexi Kline played well against a very good opponent at first singles, and he said the senior is going to be a great leader and example for the younger kids.
At the number-one singles spot, Kline battled a talented Mareena Michael of McKinley tough before eventually falling 6-2, 6-3. At second singles Sydney Mast fell to McKinley’s Madeline Lloyd 6-0, 6-0 while third singles went to McKinley’s Madeline Dawson, who topped Hiland’s Chloe Ayers 6-1, 6-0.
In first doubles play, Hiland’s duo of Torrence and Yoder fell to Julie Freeman and Emily Wells 6-1, 6-0. At second doubles McKinley’s Josie Lloyd and Hilary Lloyd teamed up to knock off Hiland’s Natalie Weaver and Bella Immel 6-1, 6-2.
Harris said that considering that much of his team had not been on a tennis court until about two weeks before the match, it was a decent introduction to varsity tennis.
Kline and Olivia Beachy, who just returned from vacation and was unable to play in qualifiers but is expected to play a key role in the future, are the lone two seniors for Hiland.
“At this stage of the game we have to work on the basics because we do have so many young players who haven’t been here before, but these girls are willing to work at this game to get better, and that is all a coach can ask,” Harris said. “They are looking to improve every day. They have shown a willingness to work hard on our drills, and they are eager to learn. I want to make this a fun experience for them, and we want to work hard at the game at the same time, and when kids are willing to listen and learn, that makes what we are trying to accomplish a whole lot more fun for all of us.”
If they are willing to listen and learn and work at the game like Harris said, the growth could well produce fruits as the season moves along.