Love-Love Your Team: Women’s tennis prepares for successful season

A smack reverberated through the tennis courts as senior Mia Poleksic crushed the ball over the net. “Nice shot, Mia,” a supportive parent sitting in a lawn chair called from the side. Smiling, Poleksic turned to her doubles partner, junior Madison McCann. They had just won their doubles match against Western Dubuque in an extended tie-breaker.

The members of the women’s tennis team hit the ground running, or swinging, winning both of their first meets this past Saturday. “I think it was a great confidence boost for the season. It was good for us to go and win some non-conference matches, start off with a positive record and just get back into that competitive drive, even though most of us play at the (Black Hawk Tennis) club over the year,” Poleksic said.

Of course, the players hope this great start only foreshadows what is to come for the women’s tennis team this season. “Our (first) meet went really well. We are coming back with seven of eight of our returning varsity. We were able to beat both Western Dubuque and Waverly Shell-Rock. Our first doubles team was able to show our fight and resilience coming back from 0-5 to win the set 9-7. It gave us confidence to bring to the rest of our season,” tennis captain senior Ariana Mitra said.

The varsity team plays six single matches and three doubles matches, needing to win five of any combination to win the meet. Poleksic and McCann were a new team this year, playing No. 2 doubles. “It’s great that Maddie and I know each other really well, and we’ve played together for a long time. Maddie and I are good friends off the court as well. We’ve never played doubles together during tennis season, but it has been going well so far, and I think we’ll have a good year,” Poleksic said. Mitra plays No. 1 doubles with junior Becky Hughes: “I prefer to play doubles; I feel it’s more fast paced. I like to play aggressive, and doubles gives you the opportunity to play at the net. It’s also a lot of fun to have another person out there for you to talk with and keep yourself positive and pumped up,” Mitra said.

Following their winning streak, the tennis players face Cedar Rapids Washington this week. “Wash are the defending state champions, so they have an extremely strong team. We don’t expect to be able to do anything major against them, but since we aren’t expected to win, it will be a good meet because we get to go out there with no pressure and see if we can surprise anyone,” Poleksic said.

Despite the difficulty they soon face, the players remain optimistic about the rest of their season. “Cedar Rapids Washington will probably be our toughest meet. They have several of their varsity players returning from last year, but it will give us good practice for the remainder of our season, which we have high hopes for. Our hope is to win our division and make it to State. I think this year is one of the best years to do that. We have lots of talent, a very deep team and have worked hard year round to achieve this,” Mitra said.

The CF tennis team is part of the Valley division which includes Dubuque Senior, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Iowa City West, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Linn Mar and Dubuque Wahlert. In order to win the division, the team must have the best record of these seven schools. State is decided at the end of May during the individual district tournaments and during team sub-state.

“I think we have a really good shot of making it to the state tournament this year and being conference champions. We have a really good team dynamic, and I think that can take us far because we are all really good friends and supportive of each other, and we have the skill level that it takes to go to State. Last year we had bad luck with the regional draw, but with a little bit of luck this year and with our skill level and team dynamic, I think we have a good chance of making it,” Poleksic said.

The team follows a fun pre-meet ritual and supports each other throughout the meet. “During our practices and warm ups before meets, we bring out speakers to the tennis courts and Becky (Hughes) has created a playlist of pump-up songs and songs that are inside jokes for our team. It really just adds to the fun environment that our team is able to create with one another,” Mitra said.

“We kind of huddle as a group, sharing positive thoughts and positive vibes. We give each other the confidence we need because it’s such a mental game. During the meet it really helps that we have the support of our teammates watching if they finish their match first and talk to us because it is such a mental game. The thing with teammates and coaches talking to you during the match is they can see a different angle of what you are doing wrong or right, and they are there to tell you that because it’s easy to get down on yourself. It’s nice to have your teammates and coach to support you even if you’re alone on the court,” Poleksic said.

Though the team looks forward to a state run and has the potential because of their skill level, ultimately the team dynamic is what makes this team so special. “I think it really helps that we are really close friends off the court too, and I think that will transfer into our success. We have a really really good group/team dynamic. That’s the reason we play. In five-10 years, we aren’t going to remember the scores of the meets or the matches we lost. We are going to remember the van and car rides and team meals and friendships,” Poleksic said.

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