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Girls Tennis State Finals Preview

girls tennis

By: Katie Schultz

Throughout this season, girls varsity tennis has had many victories despite some minor setbacks. They made it through the OK Red taking second place, and they took first place at Regionals. Now the girls are moving on to State and continuing to make their coach, their parents, and themselves proud of their accomplishments. Pete Schwallier, coach and instructor at West Ottawa High School has had the privilege of coaching these girls. Schwallier elaborated on their journey to the State Finals.

Goals This Season
“We wanted to win the OK Red, we wanted to win the regional title, and we wanted to get to the state finals. We did not win the OK Red, we won Regionals, and we made it to
State Finals. So we have reached two out of the three goals, and the one that we didn’t, we only missed by one place. In the past, we have always made it to the State Finals, so every team has reached at least one goal. Next year, we will try for all three.”

Working Through Injuries

“There were lots and lots of foot injuries. Those injuries didn’t take the girls out of matches, but they had to play through a great amount of severe pain to get through the matches. There were people with spurs, people with blisters to the point where half of their foot was a blister, an ankle sprain so bad that it put a girl on crutches. It was so bizarre because it was all foot related. I have never had that happen before. You can see that these girls are not making this up. You look at their feet and think ‘how are you even on the court right now?’ They had to play with a lot of pain and they did a good job of playing and recovering.”

Proudest Moment of the Season

“The day of regionals, I wasn’t there. Not only did they win it with one of the best players out (she had sprained her ankle), but they won it without their head coach. My wife delivered our son Landon that day. Not only was it the proudest moment of the season, but it was the best day of my life. Landon was born at 2:23, we were up all morning because of the adrenaline rush, and I was in the hospital room with my wife all day. I got hundreds and hundreds of texts from parents, coaches, the girls, probably a text every minute or two letting me know how they were doing. At about 1:30 in the afternoon, it became clear that we were going to make it to the state finals. Not only that, but that we’d win the whole thing. I was so proud; it was the best day of my whole life.”

“The next night I went home from the hospital and the girls and parents had tied blue balloons on my basketball hoop for Landon. They said ‘girls tennis, Regional champs.’ It’s another example of how it is supposed to be fun and how we support each other. And that day, they supported me and each other so well.”

Strengths of the Team

“The biggest strength we have is no weak flights. Even really good teams have a couple weak flights. They have to sacrifice somewhere to make other areas stronger. Because we have so many players that play year round, we have so many varsity worthy players. That’s our biggest strength – the depth of our program. Every single flight on our team has the potential to make a run on Friday because they are all good enough to do it. My best players are Rilie DuShane and Marie Holaway, both seniors. All of my best players will be playing all of the other schools’ best players. They’ve got a difficult road. It just depends on who is hot that day.”

Goals at State

“I want them to walk off feeling like they’ve played well. We’ve only played two teams that are going to be at state – Hudsonville and Rockford. We’ve beaten both of those teams. All of the other ones, we’ve never played before. They are from a cluster around the Ann Arbor area. Traditionally, we are somewhere in the 8th-13th for placing. Our goal is a top ten finish, that’s usually what we shoot for. Considering there’s hundreds of teams in Michigan, that’s pretty good.”

The Day of Finals

“The cool thing about being in division one is playing at the Midland Tennis Center. It has 32 tennis courts, 16 indoors, 16 outdoors. All of the teams are at that one location, 19 teams have qualified. All of the best teams are going to be in that facility, all weekend long, playing each other until there is one left. Normally tennis matches are quiet, but it is going to be loud. It’ll be overflowing with people and good tennis players. If any flight from our team makes it to the semifinals, then the whole team gets to stay for a second day.”

Through the pain of injury and the joys of victory and Schwallier’s new baby, the team has truly had a rewarding season. The state finals take place on Friday, June 1st in Midland, and will carry on to Saturday, June 2nd, if the girls make it to the semifinals.