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Varsity tennis season finishes strong

Devon Tallman, Photo Editor

As they walked around the Palm Courtyard relishing the congratulations and wishes of good luck from the rest of the Saint Stephen’s community, the Varsity Girls Tennis team were all smiles as they headed off to the State Competition on Tuesday, April 17. Nearly two weeks earlier, these five girls played their hearts out hoping to make it past Districts, alongside the Varsity Boys’ Tennis team.

Coach Rich Schutzman, the Varsity Girls Tennis Coach, felt that the Girls’ team was very strong going into the District and then Regional matches, but was possibly most impressed by the leadership and sense of teamwork that this year’s team exemplified.

“Going into Districts [and Regionals], the Saint Stephen’s Girls team had two very good doubles teams playing their positions, and the leadership of the captains and upper classmen was very strong. I felt fairly confident that the team would finish high enough,” he said.

Schutzman’s son, Scott Schutzman, the Varsity Boys’ Tennis coach, agreed that both teams were prepared to excel past District level to Regionals.

“We [knew] going into districts that we would have a good chance to finish in the top two positions for both boys and girls, but we would have to play well to accomplish that. Both teams had been playing well leading up to the post season,” he said.

Districts, held on March 2nd and 3rd at Out of Door Academy’s home courts, thus proved that both teams had the ability, skill-set and determination to take on most any team.

Junior Richelle Leuchter said she was passionate about being on the team.

“I knew that we had a really strong team this year, and so we could handle the competition in Districts and Regionals.”

While the girls guaranteed and secured their position in Regionals from the beginning by winning three out of their five singles matches, the boys had a more difficult time in terms of doubles matches, as they realized they had “to fight really hard in singles to maintain their spot in Regionals. [However] in the end it revealed how badly they wanted to advance,” Scott Schutzman said.

Nearly a week later, after previously learning they had come in 2nd place overall at Districts, both teams found themselves competing in Regionals.

Once again, the Girls Varsity Tennis team excelled in all areas, singles and doubles, coming out on top by defeating Saint Stephen’s greatest rival in Tennis, ODA.

Leuchter said, “We were all excited [to advance toward States] , but even more excited that we had beaten ODA in Regionals.”

However, the boys’ tennis team did not fare as well in Regionals as the girls’ team had and were not able to advance toward States.

“In losing, [the boys] will take away valuable lessons. I want our players to always be on the lookout for ways to improve,” Scott Schutzman said.

Fast forward a month, and the Girls Varsity Tennis team was prepared to face the competition at States. Last year the team had been a force to be reckoned with as they took home the State Champion title, and this year they hoped to play up to that title.

“Placing high in States is an accomplishment in itself,” Rich Schutzman said, who understands after several years of going to States with the Girls team that the competition is stiff.

However, as the Girls team ended the State competition in fourth place overall, there was no doubt that they were proud of themselves and what they had achieved this season.

“We really bonded as a team this season, and we’re like a family,” Richelle Leuchter said.

Rich Schutzman reiterated the team spirit that he saw throughout the season.

“The five girls who traveled to States developed a close relationship with each other that was clearly evident,” he said.

Scott Schutzman said he was proud of the season’s successes. “It is easy to want to get better, but it is really hard to make the sacrifices to actually get better. I want to instill in my players to embrace the journey toward becoming a better player.”

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