By Brie Broyles
Undeterred by the many injuries and losses they have faced this year, East women’s tennis season is off to a fiery start, due to the team’s promising record, multiple revitalizing defeats, and the players’ happy chemistry. The season started with five players off the court, leaving remaining players training harder to make up for the loss of nearly half the team.
According to Linker, the many challenges the team has had to face this year — including injuries, sicknesses, the loss of key players, and the subsequent adjustment– have resulted in several returning players stepping up in leadership roles and higher-ranking positions. This unexpected shift of roles has changed and considerably strengthened the team dynamic and players’ mutual respect.
“The chemistry of this group is about as good as any team I can remember,” Linker said. “The girls have bonded quite well, have really bought into my ‘team concept,’ and they know what I expect on an East tennis team.”
With the records at 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the PAC-6 conference, plus a ranking of fourth in the state, the team’s confidence has been boosted, the coach’s pride elevated and the players’ spirits emboldened.
“Despite all the challenges, we finished second to defending state 2A champs Salisbury,” Coach Lindsey Linker said of the team’s trip to the Port City Invitational in Wilmington during the second week of the season. “We were quite pleased. I played all the way down to our #12, so it really showed our depth.”
East’s main advantage is its depth, meaning talent is evident in all twelve players rather than just the highest ranked. This widespread talent will be very important in playoffs. At the beginning of the season when Tessa Johnson and Sheila Deng (both in the top six) were injured, girls who don’t play top six took up the challenge.
“Our depth sets us apart from other teams,” senior Joana Barros-Magalhaes said. “I predict we’ll surprise many teams that may underestimate us for having lost so many valuable players. We’ll continue to work hard and never give up, even in the toughest of matches.”
Not only do the Lady Wildcats fight hard, they also show great sportsmanship, a statement confirmed by both the coach and players. Junior player Maggie Booterbaugh claims that the annual team goal is to “stay classy” on and off the court, a goal that’s very important yet not always easy.
“We’ve been good at keeping our cool during matches when faced with difficult emotions,” senior player Delaney Reardon said. “There have been distracting opponents who curse and try to get in our faces, but we just stay cool and keep playing. That takes a lot of class and control. We know when the time to be awesome is and the time to be focused is. This season has been, and will be, wicked fantastic.”