05 November 2010

Girls Tennis: Short on wins but long on improvement

On the basis of wins and losses, the 2010 season wasn't one for the time capsule but veteran coach Jack Olwell said despite his team's 0-13 dual meet record (0-7 in the Missota Conference), it did not lack for accomplishment.
"We improved greatly from the start of the season to the finish," he said. "Even though we lost early in the section tournament, the girls hit their peak at that time.
"I was most pleased that our effort did not flag during the losing streak. It has been said that character is best defined as the willingness to fulfill commitment after the desire has faded. I don't know if the desire diminished but the effort certainly didn't."
Thirteen players received varsity letters at the post-season awards banquet, including six seniors: captains Danielle Froehling, Brianna Kashak and Emilee Shearer, Lucy Gentilini, Mila Jacobson and Sam Leighton.
"I hope the seniors realize that they provided the coaches a very special experience," Olwell said. "More importantly, they have set a wonderful example for the younger players."
Underclasssmen earning letters included juniors Jessica Autey, Katie Burgess, Meghan Lindstrom, Rachel Molitor and Maggie Rudorfer; sophomore Melanie Kappes and freshman Megan Stivers.
Rudorfer, who occupied the No. 1 singles position all season, won the team's Most Valuable Player award and also received all-Missota Conference honorable mention. Lindstrom, who had the best individual record, took home the Player of the Year award.
"We had 34 players who demonstrated a growing love for the game," Olwell said, "and the team formed a strong bond as the season progressed."
The Tiger coach said he was obviously disappointed with the lack of victories but added that some of the circumstances were out of his players' control.
"The season was a little like running a race in which your opponents have a head start and it was too great to overcome in the time allowed," he said. "We ran hard and closed the gap but couldn't overtake them."
The Tigers have not won a Missota Conference dual meet since the 2008 season and Olwell said that in order for that to change, players here need to start playing competitively at a younger age.
"Most of the teams we play have their key players who have been under the watchful eye of a professional for years." he said. "They have seventh and eighth graders who have played in section and state tournaments.
"In Farmington we develop players on our own courts, usually starting in middle school. That helps account for the head start we concede to our opponents."
To help even the playing surface, Olwell advocates starting players at a younger age, at least in elementary school. Until that process evolves and begins to produce results, however, the Tiger coach said there is much to be learned from the game, regardless of the win-loss numbers.
"There are so many life lessons to be learned," he said. "Sacrificing for other team members, dealing with adversity and handling both success and disappointment with maturity are things we all want our kids to learn.
"Ultimately the journey toward that end includes striving for one's best effort and best performance against the obstacles that face you."