After clinching four straight Henlopen South titles, the Indian River High School girls’ tennis just missed out on a fifth conference title last season in getting the short end of a tie-break against rival Milford.
However, they made up for that this season, clinching the division and bringing the title back to IR after a 4-1 win against Seaford on Tuesday, May 10.
“It came down to that last match. We were preparing and preparing. We knew that we had to win that one to clinch,” said head coach Stefanie Riddle. “They worked so hard. They definitely earned it.”
“I’m so proud of the team,” said senior first singles player Hannah Shultie. “It took all of us and our hard work to achieve the goal we had been working so hard for. It was a great end to a senior year.”
Shultie put her squad up with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 victory over Seaford’s Samantha Cotten, with the Indians sweeping the Blue Jays at second and third singles as well.
At the two spot, sophomore Kayla Huebner took down Jordyn Lewis, 6-4, 6-2, and freshman Alex Fitz rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kaitlyn Coll at third singles.
The team’s fourth victory on the day came at first doubles, where senior Tiffany Cain and junior Mariayna Lovelace battled it out in a tight 6-4, 7-5 match against Seaford’s Abby Pearson and Abigail Phillips.
The win put the Indians at 5-5 on the season and 4-1 in the South to cap the season. But while Riddle found out that they had clinched the South that night, she waited to surprise the team with the news, until the Henlopen Conference championships on Thursday, May 12.
“They kept asking, ‘Did we win?’ I kind of tried to keep it a surprise,” Riddle said. “When they announced it, they were really excited.”
At the championships, which spanned through Saturday, May 14, the Indians got some more good news when Fitz advanced all the way to the semi-finals, to take fourth place in the conference after a tough bout with Dover’s Chloe Tackett.
“I’m pretty proud. I didn’t think that I would ever do something like this,” said Fitz after the accomplishment. “As long as I do my best, I’m cool with it. I feel like I played really well today.”
“It was tight,” Riddle added of the match. “Her mental toughness and focus is amazing as a freshman. She doesn’t give up.”
While Riddle will miss her graduating seniors, she was encouraged by her squad’s performance this season and the promise shown by young players such as Fitz headed into next year, when they’ll look to repeat as South champs and start another title streak.
“We’re really excited,” Riddle said. “I’m really proud of the team. They’ve worked hard, and they’ve grown into nice tennis players.”
She’s also encouraged by the mental toughness she saw this season, after a tough start.
“They just tried their best. I don’t know how many times they lost the first set and came back the second and won the third,” she said. “As a coach you can’t ask for anything else. They never gave up.”