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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tennis Bluebirds Prepare for State Tournament

Coach Laskey Hopes Players Play Relaxed Tennis

Contributed Photo. Highlands junior Elizabeth Schwalbach follows through in a recent match. The state tournament takes place in a week.
The hope for the state tournament qualifiers on the Highlands tennis teams is to keep the same mindset they had in the 10th Region Tournament.

"In Regionals, their semifinal opponents were all higher seeds and players they had faced during the regular season so they had nothing to lose," said Kris Laskey, Highlands Head Coach. "Chances are at state they'll all be drawing a teams they haven't seen before, which hopefully allows them to just play their style of game and not worry ahead of time what they may be up against (in the) first round."

The Highlands boys finished 13-4 during the regular season before finishing 10th Region runner-up to Campbell County. The Highlands girls finished 9-5 finishing third in the 10th Region Tournament behind Mason County and Harrison County. Laskey said the thing that's been the most enjoyable this season has been the interest in the successes of not just themselves, but also their teammates.

"High school tennis is an awesome opportunity for kids playing an otherwise individual sport to come together and experience the team thing," Laskey said.

"Our schedule had several dual home and road matches the boys and girls played together so they got to know each other. While Regionals is obviously two separate girls and boys tournaments, they really enter Regional tournament as one big team really rooting for one another. It makes our cheering section that much bigger and helps a lot in tight matches.  From the pre-season meeting on, I harp on team support, engaging and watching teammates when your match is finished.  It doesn’t always make sense to them at the start of the season but most gradually figure it out, that cheering makes a huge difference in tennis. 

It’s no coincidence that the six state qualifiers bought in to the ‘back your team’ mindset early and often.  Nothing makes me happier than hearing a Highlands player three courts away yelling nice shot to a teammate.  I'll take a three-set loss with teammates up against the fence watching every point any day over a win with two players on the sidelines looking bored."

The two singles players and four doubles team players made the state by making it to the 10th Region semifinals. Highlands freshman Peter Laskey (13-4 individual record) and senior Brooke Hodory (8-7) qualified in singles play. The doubles teams going to state are freshman Matthew Erickson (12-7) and seventh grader John Laskey (12-8) along with junior Elizabeth Schwalbach (10-7) and freshman Rachel Hoffmann (12-5). Of the six, only two have gone to state before. Peter Laskey and Schwalbach qualified as doubles last year. Schwalbach and former partner Jana Riffe won one and lost the second. Peter Laskey and former partner Jeffrey Schenk lost in the first round.

"State is exciting and could cause nerves in some, but I don’t anticipate that with this group," Coach Laskey said. "I’ll just remind them that their positive attitudes and efforts have helped them get this far, and to keep it up.  Playing their best is all I can ask for."

Schwalbach did not shy away from the importance of communicating well with the partner for success in doubles play. It can be a huge obstacle if not done well.

"Whether it’s between points, within each point, or between sets, discussing with one’s partner provides immense benefits, as it allows the team to work as one," Schwalbach said. "Without the close connection and communication I have with my doubles partner, it would be nearly impossible for us to be a state-qualified team."

The state tournament begins at the University of Kentucky in a week. The first match begins at 8 a.m.

Highlands has had several individual and doubles state champions in school history. In 1971, Kathy Eicher and Polly Foureman captured the girls state doubles title. Todd Clements won the boys singles crown in 1980 and Joe O'Brien won it in 1932.

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