The Lady Chargers entered their spring season with high hopes, their main goal being the Division I state title. Unfortunately for them, injury struck at key points in the lineup and has forced the varsity group to work harder to make up for their injured teammates. Although winning states may be a lofty goal at this point, the vacant positions have opened up opportunities for other members of the team to play at a higher level of competition than they otherwise would have.
The anatomy of a high school tennis team is made up of four singles players, four doubles teams and a varying amount of reserve players. Unlike most other sports, tennis players who have starting positions are expected to play the entirety of each match. The role of the reserve players is to train with the team and, if need be, take the spot of an injured player. This season, three of the four reserve players have been called upon to play for their teammates who are unable to compete.
This season, the team has been met with only four major injuries, however, the severity and positions afflicted by these injuries has made a significant impact. Preceding the season, junior McKenna Root suffered a groin injury, which prevented her from playing while she would have otherwise held a valuable position. The Lady Chargers lost another key player when sophomore Kamryn Matthews slipped on the wet court while running sprints during practice and incurred a stress fracture on her ankle. This season-ending injury has kept her from her position at Number One doubles.
“I have a grade two high ankle sprain, I tore two of my ligaments in my ankle, I strained my Achilles, and my tendons at practice changing directions less than a week before valleys,” Matthews said. “At that point I was number two in the state for one doubles and only lost to the number one team in the state in a very close match the weekend before, my partner and I had a really good chance at a state title and were going to get a lot of points to help out the team to win the team title as state champions. It was devastating for me, and the rest of the team. It changed the whole lineup and made the team not as strong. It’s definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through knowing I could be out for the whole summer, too, but I still have two more years to finally get my state title.”
Another spot on the team had to be filled when freshman Ton Fai Sermchaiwong sprained her ankle while training at the tennis center.
“I sprained my ankle twice,” Sermchaiwong said. “The first time, it was the first day of practice. I dove for a ball and hit the fence, courtesy of Margaret Schaller. It was disappointing, because I was so excited to play in the first tournament. It took a lot to stop me from playing. I was back by the third tournament. The second [sprain] was a grade two and was a bit more serious. It was the night before regionals. My ankle was still pretty weak, but I took precautions to wear my brace every time I played. I wasn’t able to play regionals the next day, and that really impacted the team. We came in second at regionals by one point. It’s frustrating because I believe we could have gotten first. With two people already being completely out [for the] season, it’s important that I heal quickly and play states. I think it’s possible, and we are planning on me returning to the tennis courts before then.”
The team then received their greatest blow when senior Christina Auyeung playing at number one singles, fractured her ankle during the Valley tournament and is now out for the remainder of the season. Christina is extremely disappointed that she can no longer compete as a Charger, although, she continues to carry out her duties as team captain and support her teammates.
“I have an evulsion fracture on the back of my ankle, meaning that when my ligament tore off, it tore off part of the bone,” Auyeung said. “I also have other torn or sprained ligaments in my ankle. It’s definitely a bummer because this injury is not something where I can just pop a few pills and tough it out on the tennis court. I feel so guilty for letting my team down but I still have confidence that they are going to [do] great without me. I’ll just be the best cheerleader they’ve ever had. I’m still going to all their practices and matches. Just because I’m injured doesn’t mean I’m not part of the team, I just have a different job now.”
Because of high school tennis rules, the team is forced to use reserve players to fill the exact spots of their injured teammates rather than altering the lineup of other positions in order to keep their seeding that they have earned throughout the year. Reserve players sophomore Elizabeth Templeman, freshman Claire Butcher and sophomore Marie Marché have stepped up to fill the positions of number one singles, number one doubles and number three doubles respectively. The reserve girls have been given the opportunity to play at a high level and face difficult competition as they accept the challenge do their best for their team.
“It’s stressful because the lineup keeps changing, but we have a pretty solid team, so it evens it out,” Marché said. “I think regionals went well, we all did a great job and really tried our best. I’m truly looking forward to states, it’s always the best part of tennis season.”
Despite these crippling injuries, the girls have managed to place first at the Dow quad, Rochester quad, Ann Arbor tournament and, for the 17th year in a row, the Saginaw Valley League tournament. They fought hard for a close second at the regional tournament, which took place at the Midland Community Tennis Center on May 15. Girls varsity tennis seeks to continue their efforts at states which will also be held at the MCTC on May 30 and 31.