By Sarah Hanlon
After not having the opportunity to play in the last spring sport season, the tennis teams are finally getting the chance to play through the pandemic. Although COVID has been the reason many sports teams saw a dramatic shift in the way they played, tennis has been fortunate enough to have the advantage of playing outside in a socially distanced setting, which has allowed them to play most of the season without masks. Precautions are still being taken into consideration to ensure the safety of every player, such as finding sanitizer on every court and limitting interactions between opposing teams while switching sides, exchanging balls, and changing score cards.
Both the girls and boys team have been very successful this season, winning many of their matches. This year, the teams are located at the Great Harbor Yacht Club tennis courts, playing on clay rather than the usual hard courts. Both David Cheever, head coach of the boys team, and Luke Thornewill, head coach of the girls team, have been working with pros around the island to bring professional experience to the Student-Athletes regular tennis play. This has given athletes the opportunity to discuss the game with individuals who have dedicated much of their time to the sport, and has opened a new perspective on both the mental and physical aspects of the game.
The boys team is currently standing with a 6-6 record, winning half of their matches. They still have two matches remaining in the season, and they hope to finish strong and improve their score, breaking the tie.
With the Fall Two sports season this year, spring sports were pushed back going later into the year. This was definitely seen as a challenge at the beginning of the season, and is becoming increasingly challenging near the end of the season, especially for the seniors on the team. Senior Captain Will Harris commented that the lateness of the season “is a little weird, considering that we still have a good amount of matches left and I am out of school.” High school seniors still have to dedicate time to practices and matches, even though they are no longer in school, and graduation has come and gone.
Despite the late start, the boys team has accomplished a lot this season. Harris felt positively about the team’s performance: “So far, I would unquestionably consider our season a success. We only had a few returning players from two years ago, so although we were optimistic about how the season would turn out, there was definitely a level of uncertainty.”
As mentioned before, COVID didn’t play a huge role in the tennis season this year. Senior Captain Jake Toole reported that “COVID hasn’t changed much except for the fact that we haven’t been allowed to shake hands with our opponents after each match.” Because of the distance that takes place in this outdoor sport, it has not been a problem playing and practicing without masks.
The switch to the Great Harbor Yacht Club tennis courts definitely had a positive impact on both teams. Toole noted that “being fortunate enough to play at the Great Harbor Yacht Club made the season a lot better and that definitely contributed to our success.” The main difference between these courts and the previous courts, is that the athletes are playing on clay rather than hard courts. This has an effect on the ball’s speed and bounce, and also plays into the athletes footwork during their match.
Members of the girls team agree that this switch has definitely been a positive aspect of the season. Junior Abbey Boylan believes that the court lends the tennis team a certain home team advantage, and is happy with the change: “Not only have the clay courts helped us with our play as it slows the ball down and allows us to slide into our shots, but it also makes our opponents adjust to what we are used to throughout every home match.”
The late start had an even greater effect on the girls season as the pre-season start was delayed more than that of the boys team, as the coaching staff was still being determined. The delayed start as well as the cancellation of the previous season put the girls team in the dark, as experience levels were still being discovered. Junior Captain Emily Dussault emphasized that the team “really didn’t know how this season was going to play out, considering we didn’t have the opportunity to play last year.”
The girls team had only a couple of weeks of practice before their first match. Despite the little practice time, the girls team were successful winning their first match against Rising Tide 5-0, paving the way for the rest of the season. Although the girls team is currently standing with a 7-8 record, many have viewed this season as a large victory. Boylan pointed out that “while sometimes the score doesn’t show it, my teammates and I have been very successful this season. Oftentimes our games consist of really long rally’s that go in and out of deuce, and this is not always reflected in the end score.”
Both teams are hopeful for a strong finish to their seasons waiting on playing the Vineyard at their last matches. With new skill sets being discovered, and many young players joining the team this year, it looks as though Nantucket High School tennis will only continue to become stronger in the future.