Varsity girls tennis team from Grayling High School slated to begin 2019 season with meets this week
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School’s varsity girls tennis team had two weeks of indoor practice prior to spring break, and the squad – after one week of practice after returning to classes – is scheduled to start its 2019 season with meets this week.
“The girls are working hard to prepare and be ready,” Coach Mark Sloan said.
Coach Sloan said the program has “20 girls this year.” Most of them are new to the sport.
“We have six returning players with varsity experience and 14 athletes with no previous tennis experience. Our team is pretty balanced by grade level with five freshman, five sophomores, six juniors, and four seniors,” Coach Sloan said.
The Vikings started their official practice sessions on March 11. The school had spring break from March 22 through April 1. Due to court conditions, the team was not able to practice outside during its early sessions. The squad practiced at Grayling Middle School.
“Inside at the middle school is always interesting. Visibility is different than a court and the way a ball bounces on a gym floor is different. It’s nice though to have the sunken gym floor and smooth walls to run drills and hit off of,” Coach Sloan said.
Other challenges associated with having to practice inside a gym instead of outside on the court?
“My main challenge is the amount of time I have to teach some solid base tennis skills to build upon. The girls make a lot of progress in a short period of time but we add another dimension to the game once we move outside: there are lines on the court to contend with,” Coach Sloan said.
“Most of our time in the gym is spent doing light workouts and hitting as many tennis balls as possible. We have a saying, ‘the more you hit the better you’ll get.’ We only have three weeks of practice to get our new athletes up to speed. Based on the snow cover we will be fortunate if we can be on the courts the week school returns from spring break,” Coach Sloan said.
Coach Sloan said the players are willing to work and improve and they’re making progress.
“Our team is coachable and determined to learn. I have two new athletes that come to tennis with solid volleyball skills and both are transitioning to tennis nicely,” Coach Sloan said.
The team has a simple goal for the season.
“Win some matches,” Coach Sloan said.
Coach Sloan expects the squad to face tough competition in the Lake Michigan Conference again this year.
“Strong conference. Middle of the pack or better would be a nice accomplishment,” Coach Sloan said. “I expect our team to be competitive in the LMC. I would love to see the squad put together some solid wins. We are in a league and regional with a few tennis powerhouses, (Traverse City St. Francis) and Harbor Springs. I’m encouraged to have 16 ninth and tenth and eleventh graders to work with and develop skills with over the next few years. Each year our players improve incrementally in skills and experience leading to a stronger squad.”
Coach Sloan said the program needs to continue building a community tennis program in order to get kids playing the sport at a younger age.
“We need to work on building the AuSable Area Community Tennis Association and develop a stronger program to introduce tennis to our elementary and middle school kids. A feeder program would do wonders for the development of our high school program. We got started with the program and had three key people relocate to other states. Any community members interested in developing youth tennis programming can get in touch with me,” Coach Sloan said.
(Contact Coach Sloan via email at email@example.com.)
The squad has an assistant coach, Amy Gauthier, this year.
“Amy played varsity tennis in college and has a lot to offer our team. It’s very nice to have her input, competitiveness, and skills to add to our team development,” Coach Sloan said.
The tennis squad’s first meet of the 2019 season – slated for Monday, April 8, at Alpena – was played as scheduled. The Vikings have a home meet slated for Wednesday, April 10, vs. Charlevoix and East Jordan, weather and court conditions permitting.