Brown County High School’s girls tennis players have faced a tough schedule this year, but that’s the way they want it.
“We’ve lost a few, but we’re losing to really good competition,” Head Coach Thom Miller said before their 3-2 loss to Edinburgh May 5.
The Edinburgh loss wasn’t one Miller expected; yet, he wasn’t disappointed with his players so much as impressed with the improvement the Edinburgh team showed.
Miller intentionally picked a more difficult schedule than in past years, he said. The players are on board for testing themselves against teams from Bloomington and Columbus.
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“The mentality of, ‘We want to compete and we want to compete at a high level,’ is there that — I’ve never seen that before,” Miller said.
“We’ve put the time in, and we’re going to fight for everything we can, and we also understand — I think the girls understand — that this is definitely a process,” Miller said. “We’re not there yet, but the whole goal is to be at the highest level at the end of the season — to prepare for our post-season.”
If the players had a lighter schedule, they could have walked away with a better record than they will have at the end of this season, Miller said.
But his players don’t just want wins. They want a challenge.
After taking second place in the Western Indiana Conference with a 4-1 championship loss to Northview May 6, the Eagles were 5-5.
That was the fourth loss in a row for Brown County. The team had enjoyed a winning streak since beating Indian Creek 3-2 in the second meet of the season; the team also scored a 3-2 win over Bedford North Lawrence.
The streak wasn’t broken until Bloomington South on May 2, losing 4-1.
Though he anticipated more work in the weeks leading up to sectionals, which begin Wednesday, May 18, Miller said he is proud of the Eagles’ overall performance.
The team’s lineup hasn’t changed since the win against Indian Creek, when senior Kiara Unsworth swapped out for freshman Kiera Omberg in No. 2 doubles.
Since then, Omberg has been paired with fellow freshman Baelyn Koester, accumulating a 3-6 record.
Last year, Miller made multiple changes throughout the season.
“I was really doing a lot of experimenting … and I feel like I found that combination a little bit sooner this year,” the coach said.
Miller had a fairly good idea of the singles lineup early on, naming senior Ashley Pugh, junior Elisabeth Huls and sophomore Hallee Miller as strong possibilities during one of the first practices March 17.
So far, Pugh has the strongest personal record with 7-3 at No. 3 singles. Her first loss came May 2 against Bloomington South’s Natalie Cook.
Huls has taken a 6-4 record in No. 2 singles, with Miller going 2-8 in No. 1 singles.
The hardest choice was picking the best pairs for doubles, Miller said.
In addition to Omberg and Koester in No. 2 spot, Junior Sarah Barrick and sophomore Jacey Ferguson have stayed in No. 1 doubles throughout the season, racking up a 6-4 record.
Facing harder opponents, the Eagles have built confidence even in their losses, Miller said.
“We’re in a lot of the sets, and we’re in a lot of the games, and we’ll win multiple points and we’ll get in longer rallies,” Miller said.
“I want these kids to leave their high school career proud of the progress they’ve made, whether or not they’re winning or losing,” he said.
“So that’s one of the main reasons why I want them to play the toughest schedule we can play, is just to give them that confidence.”
Freshmen: Baelyn Koester, Lisa Fleetwood, Kiera Omberg
Sophomores: Hallee Miller, Jacey Ferguson, Maya Rockhold, Leah Tucker, Rachel Bessire
Juniors: Elisabeth Huls, Sarah Barrick, Haylee deWeerdt, Monica Percifield, Paige Holt, Amanda Fusheza, Pal Garcia
Seniors: Ashley Pugh, Kiara Unsworth