By Quinn Keating
Tennis season has officially begun at Nantucket High School, with the team playing their first match of the year on the 5th of April. Head coach David Cheever has been working hard to get his team up to speed. He has been aided by assistant coach David Mackay. The girls have been led by head coach Luke Thornewill.
This year, the team has quite a few new players. So many, in fact, that the sport has, for the first time, created a Junior Varsity/practice squad in addition to the regular Varsity squad. While most from the JV team likely won’t actually play in matches, they can still get the feel of being on the team and playing and learning the game under the coaches and with the full support of all the other athletes. The practice is a good way to build skills, practice teamwork, and also just let off steam from a school day. Some, if enough improvement is shown, will get to play in matches and be taken off-island with the team. They will probably play in what’s called an exhibition match, which are matches played just for fun or to figure out where the rankings will be. Exhibition matches do not count towards the win/loss ratio of the team.
While they do not count towards the team’s record, exhibition games are great practice, and the players on the JV team are still striving to improve continuously. Be it in exhibition matches, or regular matches, the team must be consistently strong in all areas, including forehands, backhands, and serves. However, they seem to have a weakness when it comes to backhands and serves.
When asked about this issue, Sophomore Hawkin Edwards commented that the team’s backhands and serves could use some improvements. The first of two vital parts of the game, the serve provides the start of the point every single time. The serve can make or break someone’s game, and if it is not up to the standard at which the player plays, then loss may be inevitable, depending on other circumstances. As with the serve, the backhand provides stability in one’s game. It is typically used when the ball bounces into range on the player’s off-hand side. Without it one whole side of a player is rendered useless thus ruining one’s game. Time will tell if these will be areas of growth or consistent difficulty for the team this season.
The tennis team recently came into possession of a ball machine and, according to members of the team, this addition has really helped to accelerate their skills on both the forehand and backhand sides. The machine was broken when it first came into their possession, but Derek Moulson, who teaches the automotive program at NHS, fixed it. Team members commented that they hope the machine has helped them enough to be competitive with other teams. The coaches share this wish.
However, they add that this is actually the easiest part for them. The hardest part for the coaches is deciding who gets to travel. They can only take nine players. That is three singles players, two doubles teams, totaling seven, and a pair of exhibition players. The team will take vans off-island instead of buses like with other sports because of how few players actually travel. The van becomes a party bus after a win and host to many dreary student-athlete naps after a loss.
Members of the tennis team comment that the camaraderie from this team is unlike any other sport they have experienced in their lives. They play the sport because they love the game. The tennis team gives a great opportunity to students who genuinely enjoy playing it. Their coaches put much time and effort into helping them improve their play. Some of the players had never played before they joined the team, and improved rapidly, going from not knowing how to play the game at all, to, in a month, starring as doubles players or even solo players. They credit this improvement to their resolute coaches. New talent coming into the program fuels players’ optimism for the season, and not a moment too soon, for their first match is in less than a week.