Tennis team makes best of tough season

The Lady Wildcats varsity tennis team are making the best of a tough season. Shown in back are Vanessa Pariso (from left), Rowan Edmonds, Asst. Coach Angie Reed, Head Coach Gayle Bailey, Maddie Roop and Elle Wright. In the middle row are Sydney Young (from left), Stephanie Heirman, Ashlyn Foreman, Lauren Champane, Emilie Appleyard and Kenna Wagner. Ling Xiong, Jenna Adema, Sharon Yoo and Alura Reed are shown in front. Photo provided.
The Lady Wildcats varsity tennis team are making the best of a tough season. Shown in back are Vanessa Pariso (from left), Rowan Edmonds, Asst. Coach Angie Reed, Head Coach Gayle Bailey, Maddie Roop and Elle Wright. In the middle row are Sydney Young (from left), Stephanie Heirman, Ashlyn Foreman, Lauren Champane, Emilie Appleyard and Kenna Wagner. Ling Xiong, Jenna Adema, Sharon Yoo and Alura Reed are shown in front. Photo provided.

This year’s slow start to spring has led to a lot of cancelled matches and less practice time for the Lady Wildcats varsity tennis team.

But the team has not been letting this dampen their spirits, according to Head Coach Gayle Bailey and instead the girls have been seizing each challenge head-on.

“We’ve had to do a lot of rescheduling because of the snow, rain and the cold and we’ve been having to play a lot of back-to-back matches,” said Bailey. “It’s not an ideal way to play the sport because we rarely are practicing because we’re trying to get all of our matches in and I’m not really able to really help them tweak and modify their game because there is no time… We’re going to make a go of it but we want to be very successful.”

Of the 14 girls on the team this season, all are returning players according to Bailey.

Eight of the girls are in their final season as a Wildcat athlete.

“I could not be more proud of the girls. Next year, I’ll be missing my team tremendously as I lose half my squad but I know there’s also a lot of up-and-coming talent,” Bailey said.

Despite the weather wreaking havoc on the season so far, Bailey said the Lady Cats have been bringing great attitudes to the court during every single match they’ve played.

“The biggest strength that my team possesses is not on the tennis court. They’re all about the team. They’re very selfless girls. They care more about each other than themselves. I take a lot of pride in trying to instill that… that they look to the left and look to the right because it’s not about them, it’s about the team. They really embody that and it really couldn’t make me more proud as a coach to see them be well-rounded student-athletes. I couldn’t be happier with their team morale.”

Although the team has faced shortened practice time, she said the Lady Cats have worked hard to improve their use of strategy.

“We’re constantly working on trying to find the upper edge on our opponent’s weaknesses and having them see that and recognize how to capitalize on it. That’s what we’re always trying to practice on and we do what we can with the time we have… To mentally try to execute that with less practice is hard. My girls are mentally and physically tough and they work so hard for me and I really appreciate it,” Bailey said.

So far the Lady Wildcat tennis team stands 4-4-2 overall on the season.

Among the team’s stand-out talent, Bailey included #1 singles player and senior captain Stephanie Heirman, who always “does her best.”

“Stephanie has the hardest spot on the team… My team is seasonal and sometimes she’s up against players that play year-round. She wins graciously but she also loses graciously. Her attitude is stellar. She’s an all-around good student, a good athlete and a great player,” Bailey said.

Bailey also noted #3 and #4 double players Maddie Roop and Vanessa Pariso.

“So far they are undefeated in the league. They’re very supportive of each other. They’re supportive how they work their shots. They strategize well, they motivate each other,” Bailey said. “It shows in the success they have on the court because they jive really well together and they have a blast, which is so important. They motivate themselves, they motivate each other.”

Bailey added folks should expect great things from up-and-comer Alura Reid, an OHS sophomore who plays as the team’s #4 singles player.

“As a sophomore, to come up from JV and earn a fourth singles spot like Alura did is great. She has also has been such an asset on the varsity team. She will continue to get stronger as she gets more experience under her belt. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for her,” Bailey said.