Girls’ varsity tennis adapts to new team dynamics and size

Jocelyn Overmyer

The girls’ varsity tennis team has established themselves as an annual contender for the title.

Last year, they finished first in the MCAL with an undefeated record in the regular season. However, they lost the number one seed in NCS after a tough defeat against Tam in the MCAL finals. The previous year, the team took home the pennant after winning the MCAL championship.

This year’s team looks to bounce back and keep the the streak of top-two finishes alive.

The team aims to win MCALs despite early injuries and losing five seniors, including last year’s number one singles player.  

“I would expect that we would definitely be in the top three, whether or not we can grab the pennant. I can think with the talent we have it’s a very good possibility,” said coach Marlies Zeisler.

The team’s perennial rivals, Branson and Tam, will once again be the Giants’ toughest competition.

Co-captain, Natalie Epstein, leads team in a warm up stretch
Co-captain, Natalie Epstein, leads team in a warm up stretch

“We don’t know if they gained anyone or if they lost anyone really great,” said senior co-captain Natalie Epstein.

The team currently has 21 players, five of which are freshmen.

“[The freshmen] will help us grow the team because I have five seniors. Those five seniors will be leaving and the five freshmen will fill that,” Zeisler said. “Then I will have room for five more to keep feeding the team.”

Last year, senior Lauren Wolfe solidly held the top singles spot and her departure means that the team will need to make up for her skill and leadership presence.

“We will miss Lauren for a lot more than just her skill. She was a great leader and a great personality,” Zeisler said.

Replacing Wolfe in the top spot is senior Lise Swain, who was on the team last year but was not able to compete because she transferred from St. Ignatius, making her ineligible until this year. Swain is a strong number one player and will play a huge part in the team’s success this year, according to Zeisler.

With the season just beginning, a few players already have minor injuries, although the top four players are not affected. Zeisler hopes that all injuries are just temporary and that her players will recover before the seasons end.

“In tennis you have to win five of the nine matches so even if you win the top four, if you don’t win the fifth match, its tough,” Zeisler said.

In addition to losing a lot of seniors, the team has had a couple other players depart due to transfers or other commitments. Junior Jacqueline Massey-Blake, who was ranked third on the team last year, decided to devote her time to the Redwood cross-country team.

“This year we did not make any cuts. Last year we had 40 girls showing up for 21 spots,” said Zeisler. “This year we had nine girls showing up for nine spots.”

This year there are more freshmen compared to last year when there were only two new additions to the team.

“The team has more underclassmen than the years before. It used to be more heavy on the upperclassmen side,” Epstein said. “Now we have a lot of incoming freshmen, so that’s a lot of new faces.”

Twenty four players would be the maximum amount the six Redwood courts could hold, according to Ziesler. However, with 21 players, it allows single players to have their own courts.

“We had a huge team the first two years, and then a really small team last year. I think this is a really happy medium,” Epstein said. “There’s enough girls where there is diversity and you get to play with new people, but have no overflowing courts.”

With 12 spots on the ladder available a few freshman are looking to compete for the final slots, according to Zeisler.

New incoming players will play challenge matches to determine the final line-up.

“I’m trying to get better so I do try to push myself. I play with girls that are better than me which pushes me to be a better athlete,” said freshman Sarah Fraschetti.

With all the new players, Epstein hopes to introduce a positive environment after having a rough atmosphere last year.  

“We had some really bad attitudes. One of the girls who graduated was fostering an environment of negativity and causing a lot of arguments. Girls were separated into cliques. It wasn’t a unified team at all,” Epstein said.

 

The drama prevented the team to come together as a whole and created an unfriendly atmosphere for players to show up to practice to.

“Our goal for this year is to have a nice, drama-free season. We had a season full of drama last year and that clouded a lot of our successes,” Zeisler said, “We are hoping to switch that up. I hope to see us get better, function as a team, and compete well.”

Epstein feels responsible for making the team focused about playing tennis but also creating a bonding experience.

“Because there are so many [freshman], we wanted them to feel really welcomed and comfortable because it can be really intimidating,” Epstein said. “We wanted them to be really excited to come back next year even if we aren’t going to be here.”

Since the start of the season, Epstein said she has already seen a lot of attitude improvements.

“[Having a lot of freshmen] brings a lot of enthusiasm because these girls are really excited to be on the team the first year. We are all getting to know each other,” Epstein said.

The varsity tennis team begins their season at San Marin on Tuesday, Sept. 6.