With all of NWAC spring sports having been canceled as of March 18 because of the ongoing crisis surrounding COVID-19, tennis players have expressed extreme disappointment.
“When I read the message from our coach about the cancellation of our season, I felt numb,” freshman Marie Fenske said.
Team captain Mikyla Olsen, one of two sophomores on the team (also No. 3 singles champion last season), initially thought that this season at Highline was going to be her last.
However, according to the NWAC website, “spring sport student-athletes who were enrolled full time in 2020 will not be charged a season of competition in the NWAC.”
Because of this new wrinkle, sophomores such as Olsen are able to return next season without accruing a year of playing.
“As of now, I plan to come back to Highline next year and play tennis again, which I am so thankful for,” Olsen said. “Especially since Highline offers a bachelor’s program for education, which is my career goal.”
Also because of the new wrinkle, Head Coach Laura Rosa said there will be some tough decisions to make as it pertains to the roster for next season, noting that their roster could potentially be larger than usual, “but not substantially.”
Coach Rosa also said that while the team was “devastated,” about the news, they are a “resilient team” and the team “understood that the decision was necessary.”
Prior to the season being wiped out, Highline tennis had played in five pre-conference matches, against schools such as Pacific Lutheran University, Pacific University, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College, and the University of Puget Sound.
“We jumped right in to match play against some of the best four-year schools in the [Pacific Northwest] and competed with all of them,” Coach Rosa said. “As a coach, I could see the team gaining confidence and experience, and by our last match, we got to play against Spokane, and I knew they were starting to believe too.”
While the Lady T-Birds were unable to secure a victory in any of their pre-season matchups, they kicked off league play with a bang, thrashing Spokane, 7-2.
“After our first match of the season, our win was an amazing confidence boost and got us so excited to continue to fight for victories,” Fenske said about the team’s win over Spokane. “Little did we know, that was also our last match.”
Team captain Olsen spoke glowingly of the chemistry that the team had quickly forged in the matches that they did play.
“Team chemistry this year was like no other, I loved these girls so much so it broke my heart to know that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to reach our full potential together,” Olsen said.
Freshman Laura Quinney echoed Olsen’s sentiments about their team morale.
“In any sport, I think team bonding can take a while for everyone to start feeling like they’re a family and be ourselves around each other, so it’s hard to accept that the season is cancelled because it felt like we were really bonding and becoming a tennis family,” Quinney said.
A few players had hoped that their seasons would be salvaged, only to end up having to accept the fact that their seasons had been cut short.
“I was anticipating the announcement, but it was very difficult to accept once it was official,” Fenske said. “I was at a friend’s house when I got the news and I didn’t truly process it until I drove home that night.”
“After hearing that our next match was postponed and then practice getting cancelled, we had hoped that the season would still continue and thus, when the news broke out, it dawned on us that we wouldn’t be playing anymore,” Quinney added.
Although the team’s season was cut short, players learned a lot in the short amount of time that they spent on the tennis court.
“My biggest takeaway from the season was witnessing the power of training with athletes better than yourself,” Fenske said. “I learned so much from my teammates and also the competitive teams we played against in our pre-season matches.”
Fenske added that the difficulty of the non-conference portion of their schedule was what enabled them to go out and dominate Spokane in their first league match.
Quinney said that playing against other opponents and the variation in their styles of play was how she was able to learn how to adapt to playing against a variety of play styles.
“I learned how to play smarter so rather than hitting hard all the time, I learned how to surrender to slowing the pace of my ball so that I’m more consistent and knowing when to end the ball when it’s the right set-up,” she said.
As it’s been almost a month since the season ended prematurely, players are still keeping in shape and in peak form athletically on their own.
“I have been running everyday so that I stay in shape during this time,” Quinney said. “The weather has been nice as well, so it’s really nice to go out on a run on my own since that is still allowed.”
Fenske, on the other hand, has been “finding new and fun ways to work out at home to stay healthy and entertained.”
Even though the team hasn’t been able to meet up, Coach Rosa has done her part in ensuring that she stays connected with her team.
In addition to that, she isn’t worried at all about her team getting out of shape while in quarantine.
“This team is made up of true athletes,” she said. “They are all staying in shape and I have no doubt [they] will be fully ready next fall.”
Speaking of next fall, the team has unfinished business.
“One of the hardest things about this situation was not being able to see their work pay off in the end because I think we were poised to take the NWAC title,” Coach Rosa said.
“And one of the greatest things about this season is that it will be just that much sweeter next year when we take home the trophy.”