The Arcadia Titans girls varsity tennis team is determined to finish out its 2019 season on a strong note by winning its final matches and advancing to the Arizona State Tournament.
The team, which is ranked 26th in the state in Division II Girls Tennis, is led this year by a promising group comprised of three freshman and three sophomores, who have shown growth and dedication in spades as they continue to improve throughout their season.
Despite being thin on experience and facing top competition, Coach Jeff Carpenter says the bonds his players have formed throughout the season have helped them compete at a high level.
“The goal right now is to win the rest of our region games and hopefully make it into the state tournament,” Carpenter said. “We have had a really tough schedule playing four of the top 11 teams in the state – all of which are unbeaten.”
Key players Grace Reed, McKayla Baisden and Lily Ashworth – all freshman – are stepping up and leading the way.
“Grace and McKayla have been a pleasant surprise as they are both freshman and right now are No. 1 and 2 on the team,” Carpenter said.
Grace says the season has been challenging yet very rewarding for her as she’s competed against some top players from schools across the state. “My teammates were always there for me, through wins and losses, which made the season a lot more enjoyable,” Grace said.
“No matter the outcome of the match, whenever I would step off the court, I was always greeted with my team saying ‘good job,’” Grace added. “Everyone is full of positivity and we are always cheering for each other when we aren’t playing. It’s really a great environment to grow and be a part of.”
Although the team is young, Grace views the team’s limited experience in high school tennis as a strength.
“We get to have the next two to three years to learn and grow together. This will allow our team to become much stronger,” Grace said.
Junior Sydney Gower joined the team again this year after a hand injury kept her off of the court last season.
“We have many new faces this year and it has been fun getting to know all the new players,” Sydney said. “We are a pretty mellow bunch of girls who really support each other at practice, on game days and on and off the court.”
Although they miss the contributions of the graduated seniors, Sydney says the new players were just what the team needed. “It’s great to be with people who just love the sport the way I do. We know someday we will be back to making State and hopefully taking another title,” Sydney said.
Freshman Hannah Sleeth shares the sentiment. “I have greatly improved over the last season and I look forward to continuing to play at Arcadia,” Hannah said. “We all fight hard to win every match and constantly support each other. Our team was very close to going to State this year, so that is a goal that we all have for next season as well.”
With a 7-6 record going into their last section match of the regular season, Carpenter said his group of girls are determined to end this season on a high note and use the lessons learned from each performance to prepare for success in the future.
“My goal for next year is to continue to have that positivity at every match and hopefully get a few more wins,” Grace said.
The Arcadia High boys’ varsity tennis team has fared well, led by Senior Captain Rush Williams and Head Coach Karen Fleissner.
“We’ve had a really good season, only losing two matches to the toughest teams: Cactus Shadows and Notre Dame Prep,” Fleissner said. “We’ve been winning most of our matches and haven’t had many tiebreakers.”
The 16-man team is a mix of seasoned seniors and juniors and eager sophomores and freshman. Although they are losing some top players to graduation this year, the foundations are there for the Titans to continue competing at a high level.
“They go out there and have very good sportsmanship. They really act like a team and are very respectful of others and not all tennis teams can be like that,” Fleissner said. “Our players are really well-rounded and although they can always improve, they are good at every stroke in their game.”
Rush takes his role as captain seriously. “I enjoy everyone’s presence and work ethic, and the environment is positive and friendly all around,” Rush said. “This season has been really great. Our goal this year is to make it to the state finals, and defeat one of our biggest rivals throughout all four seasons, Cactus Shadows.”
When Rush graduates, his younger brother Rhys will follow in his footsteps on the tennis team. The freshman was the team’s No. 2 varsity player, and a huge contributor to the team’s overall success this season. After losing in the second round of state finals last year, the team is hoping to go farther and leave their mark on the state championship.
“We should have a doubles team and a couple people go through to individual state, so we will be cheering them on,” Fleissner said.