The Falcons tennis team is motivated to improve their serve, racket preparation and footwork, said Angie McLean, Fort Campbell High School tennis head coach, March 14 after the team’s first home match of the spring 2018 season against University Heights Academy.
Brittney Ketchum, senior, secured an 8-3 win against Sophie Maddux, UHA. Ketchum was the only Falcon to win her match. McLean said she is “pleasantly surprised” by her team’s performance during the meet.
“I think they all put their best foot forward,” McLean said. “As soon as they get over their nerves, [this team] will end up being a horse of a different color. Nerves possibly got the best of some of us during this match, because it made us flat footed. But now, knowing they can do this and they can play well … these players have a lot more confidence going into their second match.”
During the meet, McLean circled the tennis court, studying each of the matches. After spending a few minutes observing each of her athletes, she offered words of encouragement and guidance. From outside the court, she helped her athletes identify their opponent’s weaknesses. This helped each player develop the best strategy for success. McLean said she does this to support each athlete equally, but also because each game is unique.
“I tell them to move their feet, get going and shake it off,” she said. “Hopefully they will start playing better after that. It’s important to me to have that kind of rapport with each of my players.”
Esther Fritz, junior, struggled to stay positive during her match. She lost 2-8 against Kate Bennett, UHA. This was the first official tennis match for Fritz, a former member of the Falcons’ track and field team.
“It was kind of what I expected it to be. It was a really good experience. It’s my first year playing tennis. I enjoyed it even though I lost. This was something to learn from and I can improve my skills throughout the season,” Fritz said.
Fritz transitioned to the tennis team this season for a change of pace. She said her mom encouraged her to give tennis a try because it will help keep her fit and active.
“I’ve been doing track basically my whole high school career. I enjoyed track, but at the same time I knew that I wanted to try something different, so I thought tennis would be good,” she said.
Fritz became frustrated during the match because she kept “pancaking” the ball with her racket.
“[Pancaking the ball] is like holding the racket up in front of you and just standing there not doing anything. It’s kind of like volleying,” she said.
Fritz said “pancaking” the ball several times cost her the match. This season she wants to learn how to keep her racket head up and improve her backhand serve. Her goal is to win at least one match this season.
“I am just hoping that we come out here as a team and do our best,” Fritz said. “If we lose it is OK, because I know how hard we have been working. We show up to practice and we try our hardest. I’m hoping we just keep our heads up no matter what happens … win or lose.”
Returning Falcons tennis player, Jeffrey Watson, freshman, said he also is practicing to improve his serve this year.
“I am hoping to make my shot a little better and more consistent. I want to be able to actually direct it wherever I want on the court,” Watson said.
He lost his match 2-8 against Rohan Desai, UHA.
“My opponent and I had some good shots. I just need to be more consistent with my shots,” Watson said. “It was pretty close and fast, toward the back of the court it was close. We just kept trying to run each other back and forth.” Improving the athletes’ serving techniques is important because serving is a fundamental part of tennis, McLean said.
“There are so many different points to the serve that if you have just a part of your motion that is off, it can throw everything into a downhill spiral,” she said. “Once we’ve worked the quirks out of our serves, they can improve tremendously.”
During the match, McLean noticed many of her players getting stuck in “No Man’s Land.” McLean said in tennis, “No Man’s Land” describes the area between the service line and the base line on the court.
“It’s a bad area to get stuck in today, because a lot of balls land in that area, and if you stand in that area, the ball is going to land close to your feet and it becomes very difficult at that point to have any control, because the ball tends to get behind your body,” she said. “You either want to be up closer to the net or behind the base line.”
Negative body language and attitudes on the court also can influence the outcome of a match, McLean said.
“Tennis is a mental game,” she said. “As soon as your opponent senses you are doubting yourself, they can go in for the kill. If the player is actually doubting themselves, they tend not to play as well. If you lose a point, shake it off and keep going. Play point-by-point. Try your best to win the next point and just go from there.”
After completing their singles matches, Ketchum and Fritz teamed up for a doubles match against Maddux and Bennett. They lost 4-8. Watson and Killian Jakstis, FCHS freshman, lost their doubles match against Brady Bilyeu and Desai 2-8. Takuma Pachnett and Dionte Berry, FCHS juniors, lost their match against Ethan Alexander and Zohaib Igbal 2-8.
Despite their losses, McLean is proud of her team.
“We are going to improve match by match. It’s a pleasure to be one of their coaches and I look forward to what the future holds for them,” she said.
Friday, the Falcons will travel to Webster County High School to compete against the Trojans. Wednesday, they will travel to Hopkinsville to compete against UHA again.