Indian River’s girls head tennis coach Elizabeth Tiffany was working with the bare essentials last season. She had a tough time fielding a team to compete from week to week last season, and their home court had seen better days. They only won one match last year. But that’s in the past now, because this year they have a new school, along with a new tennis court.
“They’re gorgeous,” exclaimed senior captain Laura Walters about the new facilities. “They’re so nice.”
Last year, foul balls routinely rained in on unsuspecting play and long fissures in the court swallowed up playable balls, making it very difficult to compete on a consistent basis.
“It didn’t happen too often, but when it did the other girls (opponents) freaked,” Walters said of the incoming foul balls.
“It kind of threw them (opponents) off their game,” added junior Erica Evans. “We learned to run for the fences.”
Now they not only have their own sanctuary where they can play without fear of fatality or interference but also have the numbers to build the program to where they can compete for the Southern Henlopen Conference year-in and year-out.
Last year, Tiffany had seven players — the exact number of players required to play each match. Giving up an uncontested match makes it very difficult to win, but this year Tiffany will have no such problem.
The Indian River Lady Indians tennis team is now brimming with eager young talent and has nearly tripled its numbers from last year’s roster. So many girls tried out that Tiffany had to make cuts, though she didn’t want to — but it was necessary due to a lack of playing space.
“The problem is that two courts are reserved for the top four girls, leaving only one for our beginners,” Tiffany explained.
Even though Tiffany had to cut a handful of girls, she is counting on them to compete and push for positions next season.
“I told them to keep playing and see if they could get lessons at Sea Colony or sign up for summer clinics and try out for next year,” she said. “You don’t want to develop bad habits.”
Freshman Taylor Rosenblit played softball for the past nine years but she bucked the trend and decided that she would play something else this year. She’s partnered up with fellow freshman Julie Jaquette for the second doubles team.
“I just wanted to try something new,” Rosenblit said. “I really like it (tennis) and I’m having a lot of fun.”
Rosenblit and Jaquette, along with a gaggle of other freshmen, will probably compete for the second doubles positions. That is, all except for one freshman — Ramsey Reuther clearly is the Lady Indians’ first singles player.
As a member of the United States Tennis Association, Reuther’s honed her skills and has had extensive experience competing in junior tournaments.
“Ramsey is very mature for her age,” said Tiffany. “She has very good skills and has nice strokes.”
Walters returns at her second singles position and Evans rounds out singles play in the third slot.
With so many freshmen on the team, Tiffany is relying on her two lone upperclassmen to set the tone — not only with their play but with their academic achievements as well.
“Laura and Erica have been through the program (four and three years, respectively) and they know what to expect,” Tiffany said. “They are gifted athletes and really wonderful girls. But what’s really great is that they are great student-athletes.”
Juniors Kara Roach and Mandi Dute will play first doubles this season.
In addition to all things new, Tiffany has a bit of coaching company this season. Assistant head coach Karen Oliphant joined the team this year, with the understanding that she’ll be head coach next year. Two parents with tennis experience have also donated their time in the near future to help the girls develop.
This very well could be Tiffany’s last year coaching, but that doesn’t mean the future of the program isn’t important to her. It’s her opinion that a booster program will eventually become integral in its future success.
“Once we get tennis boosters going, we’ll be able to afford lessons at Sea Colony,” said Tiffany. “That’s where you begin to improve.”
The Lady Indians’ season will kick off against Lake Forest on March 22. They’ll host Cape Henlopen at 3:45 p.m. on March 27 and travel to Smyrna on March 28.