Going into their regional semi-finals match against Cave Springs on May 23, the WAHS girls varsity tennis team had a perfect, 19-0 record. With their first 10 victories of the season coming in the form of 9-0 sweeps, an undefeated district record, and a Conference 29 championship under their belts, the girls were soaring high. “It tells you something about our program that a loss in the regional semi-finals match can be viewed as a disappointment,” said coach Ellen Markowitz, who has been with the team for seven years, commenting on the team’s 5-3 loss. “We played hard, but we’re in a tough, tough bracket where we had to face last year’s state champions in the semi-finals.”
Considering that the girls’ tennis program has gone 117-10 over the past decade, appeared in three consecutive state championship matches from 2013-2015 and won the 2014 championship, Markowitz’s disappointment makes sense. However, she said there’s a bright-side: “Every year is an exciting journey full of the ups-and-downs of tennis, combined with helping these girls manage the demanding academics of WAHS and the rest of high school life. It’s a joy to watch them grow and develop during the season, and to get to witness the power of tennis as a platform for learning and building life skills. These girls supported one another through and through, and I can’t express how proud I am of their efforts.”
The fact that the team graduated five seniors in 2016 and had only one senior in the lineup this season points to their ability to adapt. According to Markowitz, she and coach Anna Ware got lucky with an unexpected infusion of strong new players. “We had some excellent freshmen who grew up playing at Boar’s Head and Farmington, three girls who moved here last summer from Oregon, Michigan and Maryland, and two exchange students from Italy and Denmark, all of whom contributed heavily,” said Markowitz. She and Ware went from praying to get 10 strong players to having 15, which is the largest team either has ever fielded. “We wound up getting a nice balance among grades for future years,” she said.
Leading the squad was veteran Rosy Ix, the team’s number two seed and lone senior. A four-year varsity player, Ix played on the 2014 title team and hails from a family of tennis players (her sister was a former number one seed and her brother, Alex, is currently playing on the boys’ team). “Rosy has pinpoint topspin groundies and can hit with anybody,” boasted Markowitz. “The team looks up to her because she’s so warm, kind and caring. When she gets off the court she’ll always talk about how nice her opponents were or where they’re going to go college or other tidbits about their lives. She’s a great role-model and an exemplary student-athlete.” On her career, Ix went 46-2 in singles play and 37-2 in doubles.
Another big leader was junior Hannah Kearns, the team’s number one seed. Described as competitive and crafty on the court, Kearns relied on a huge serve and a knack for identifying and exploiting her opponents’ weaknesses. “Hannah eagerly assumed the number one singles spot and is ready to lead the team to new heights going into the future,” said Markowitz. “She’s done some big things on the court this year.” Along with junior teammate Anna O’Shea, Kearns is slated to compete in the regional doubles quarter-finals on May 30.
Additional noteworthy contributors on the year were freshman Louise West, O’Shea, and exchange students Claudia Giortz-Joergensen and Giulia Schiaretti. “Claudia is from Denmark and Julia from Italy, and they played doubles together,” said Markowitz. “They’re both great, both very mature. Good athletes.”
Markowitz offered a bit of reflection: “You know, many of our unseeded players could play high-up on other lineups of teams in our district, but they couldn’t reach the biggest peaks as a team without each other. The girls don’t always know how good they can be as a team and it’s amazing to watch them discover their greatness together.”
With Giortz-Joergensen and Schiaretti returning to Europe, O’Shea moving to New Jersey, and Ix graduating, the team will lose four of its top six seeds. “It’s unfortunate that we’re losing them, but we’ll have new faces stepping in and that loss will make some room for the other girls to grab top spots,” said an optimistic Markowitz. “We’re hoping to see our girls work hard in the off-season and come into next year planning to continue our strong Warrior tradition.”