|Lauren Nevitt. VVN/Travis Guy|
Depending on whom you ask, it can be said that this season was a rough one for the Mingus Union girls' tennis team.
The girls tallied two wins in the opening weeks against Coconino and Sedona Red Rock High Schools, but finished the season with eight straight losses.
Normally, this would be disheartening to a coach and team, but for the Marauders, it was a season of building and improvement for a young team.
Mingus began the final stretch of the season at Flagstaff High School, losing 9-0, but head coach Andrea Meyer was able to see the bright side and the improved play from some of the girls.
Jenny Kohler, playing No. 4 varsity, had a good match. We played pretty well, we had a good match," Meyer said. "Hope Tuma, playing at No. 6, played well also ... we were missing our No. 2 and our No. 4, so we did what we could. Hope had the most games won. She lost her match 7-5, 6-2, but she got the most games off of Flag."
Following the matchup against Flagstaff, the girls participated in the Northern Arizona Championships. It was an opportunity for them to get more matches in and it gave the younger girls a chance to play at the varsity level, despite being on JV.
"The girls got to play a series of matches against all kinds of ability levels," Meyer said.
The tournament was set up so that if the girls lost a match, they would go to the other side of the bracket and play against people that were at their skill level. It also gave the team a chance to network with other girls and teams from northern Arizona so they make new friends and have others to play tennis with during the off-season. To say that Meyer was pleased with how the tournament went is an understatement.
"Every body played well," Meyer said. "Faran Shannahan played the best. She's played all season. Courtnee Warner, playing varsity, had a series of good games where she was moving her feet better. Sharon Rehborg and Olivia Galluzzi and Jenny Kohler, those three played way beyond their level. They just played spectacular tennis ... they just played out of their heads."
The Northern Arizona Championships was established as a replacement for the lost regional tournament the AIA used to have. It was also a way to give the JV players a few more matches before the end of their season, since they do not have a state tournament.
"We had a BBQ afterwards and about half the players in the tournament received medals in the tournament, and that was really important," Meyer said. "Instead of having one or two winners, they broke the draw into different ability levels so even though girls playing in the third doubles or singles won their flights and got medals and ribbons, it was very encouraging."
The girls finished their season against Bradshaw Mountain, losing 8-1, but the match was an improvement from the last time the two teams met and Mingus was swept 9-0.
"The one win we picked up was at the No. 2 position with Lauren Nevitt. It was really an achievement because Lauren was playing the No. 2 position instead of the No. 3 position, which she normally plays ... given that we had two of our varsity girls absent, it was not bad at all. In particular, Lauren won 1-6, 6-4 and the tiebreaker was 11-9. It was a great tiebreaker."
Meyer was impressed with how Lauren handled herself through the wind and higher level of competition.
"She played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts, so that was a great win. We also had two JV's win ... so that was nice for them to feel the confidence of winning."
With the regular season over, Meyer will focus on the state tournament with three of her girls. Bethany Hickey will be participating in the singles portion of the tournament and will not get a bye the first round, but also, will not face a seeded opponent until the third round, if she wins her first and second match.
"She's not playing a seed and has as good a chance as any in that first match," Meyer said. "Bethany is a talented player, so my hopes are high for her in that first match."
If Bethany gets past her first round matchup, she could face a familiar foe in Page High School's Kate Begay.
"The Page girl, she's (Bethany) played before, Begay, and she had some trouble with her serve," Meyer said. "Bethany had some trouble receiving Begay's serve, but we know Begay's strength is that serve. I haven't seen Antelope Union play. In general, we've never met most of these schools, so we're going into it fairly blind."
The doubles pairing is still up in the air. Meyer knows that Lauren will be one of the girls on the court, but her partner will depend on whether or not Corrin will be healthy enough to play. If she isn't, then Courtnee Warner will step in as Lauren's partner.
"Lauren has been playing very well. She's been playing excellent tennis for the last two or three weeks and she generally is a person who can stay on the court a long time," Meyer said. "She doesn't give up any points and she hits a lot of balls back. She's kind of the, she's not kind of, she is the steadiest player on the team and she's gotten some more confidence in her volley at the net. Lauren's team will have a bye the first round and then they play the winner of the Valley Union, Coolidge match."
Once the tournament is done, many of the girls will participate in summer tennis as a way to improve and continue playing tennis year-round, something that other teams have had an advantage over Mingus this season.
"The girls, overall, have improved, and the thing that I'm looking forward to is [them] spinning their excitement toward the end of the season here and continuing to play in the summer."
The state tournament begins April 19, at the Paseo Racquet Club in Glendale. Singles play starts at 8:30 a.m. and the doubles team will not play until 4:30 p.m. due to a first round bye.