The 2018 spring season has been a tumultuous one for all of Mason’s sports, but especially tennis. From snow days with freezing temperatures to two hour long journeys to face faraway opponents, the experiences of the 16 Mason tennis players prove one thing: playing tennis is a lot harder than it seems, for logistical as well as technical reasons.

Tennis is an individual sport, but it requires a lot of team and coach support so each player can rise to their full potential on and off the court.

Players must compete for team rankings in order to be considered to play. Currently the top players in singles matches are:

  1. Maria Morris- Junior
  2. Carolyn Baek- Sophomore
  3. Katherine Stricker- Junior
  4. Ciel Park- Sophomore
  5. Claire Doss- Junior
  6. Caroline Poley- Freshman

In doubles matches, the top three pairs are:

  1. Maria Morris and Claire Doss
  2. Carolyn Baek and Ciel Park (junior)
  3. Caroline Poley and Katherine Stricker

The breadth of this year’s roster (six juniors, six sophomores, and four freshmen) brings new challenges without senior leadership, but also new opportunities for growth.

“It’s interesting that we have no seniors and we’re not going to lose anyone at the end of this year,” junior Clare Doss said, who has played tennis with Mason since her freshman year. “It’s both good and bad for next year because we’ll gel really well together, but it may be harder to move up and down in the rankings since the team will be mostly the same.”

With no seniors on the team at all this season, Varsity Head Coach Stephen Whitcomb will be figuring new strategies to lead the young team to success.

“Tennis is a very individual and skill-based sport so the players have much more of an impact than any coach. However, there’s a lot of interesting strategies to win,” Whitcomb said. “As coach, I enjoy touching those weird, untraditional strategies that annoy opponents to our team to help us win.”

This year, the girls tennis team will have to use all their skills and strategies to meet and surpass last season’s finish (10-6) at the Regional Semi-Final, where they lost to Maggie Walker High School in a “heartbreakingly close game,” according to Whitcomb.

However, these tennis players are up for the challenge.

“As well as playing to succeed and win, we just love to play. The juniors and sophomores really gel, we have a great compatibility and a friendly atmosphere. We’re much more of a team this year,” Doss said.

The player to watch this season is Maria Morris, ranked number one on the team. In both doubles and singles, according to freshman Umika Pathak, she is very focused. “Everything goes away as soon as she steps on court,” she said.

“I’ve been focusing on my mental game because it’s really important when you’re out there on the court and of course just playing the best I can,” Morris said.

Junior Maria Morris playing for her old school in India. Morris moved to Mason her junior year and is already this season’s “player to watch”. (Photo courtesy of Maria Morris)

Morris plays alongside Doss in doubles matches. Pathak says that they are very stressful to watch, but nonetheless it makes up for a great time for the team to bond.

Eighth grader Emerson Mellon practices with the team as well, though she cannot play in matches yet as she is not in high school. Teammates say that she will be dominating the court as a potential player-to-watch come next season.

So far, the 2018 tennis season has seen its fair share of wins. The team is ten matches into the season, with six wins and four losses. A couple of games have been cancelled due to windy and cold weather, which has proven a challenge to the team.

Their furthest match is almost two hours away from Falls Church, against Maggie Walker High School in Richmond, Virginia. The faraway locations make watching tennis games hard for interested Mason students.

According to Whitcomb, along with these obstacles, a huge challenge for the team has been mental toughness, or reacting to an adverse situation. In the sport, it can be hard to recover from losing points or an unfair call. But, as Whitcomb says, “a short term memory and just playing for the next point is key to a successful tennis mindset.”

According to Whitcomb, along with these obstacles, a huge challenge for the team has been mental toughness, or reacting to an adverse situation. In the sport, it can be hard to recover from losing points or an unfair call. But, as Whitcomb says, “a short term memory and just playing for the next point is key to a successful tennis mindset.”

This season, the team’s goal is to continue improving as players through challenging and engaging matches.

“I’m looking forward to improving my tennis skills and bonding as a team, because, though tennis is an individual sport, it’s still really important to maintain strong bonds with fellow players,” said Elisabeth Snyder, one of the four playing freshmen.

The 2018 Girls tennis team has certainly come together despite all adversities with their focus on team bonding and the balance they hold between collective and individual successes. You can catch your Mustangs in action this Thursday at Jefferson District Park as they take on the Clarke County Eagles.

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