IR tennis gets off to 2-1 start under new coach
Indian River High School’s girls’ varsity tennis team got off to a strong start last week, defeating Lake Forest, 5-0, before splitting matches on the road at St. Thomas More and Polytech. Now sitting on a 2-1 record under first-year head coach Conor McMullen, the Lady Indians have their sights on a second consecutive Southern Henlopen title, as they gear up for a string of conference and divisional opponents.
“We know that the bulk of the matches will be very competitive and important to the division standings,” said McMullen, an Indian River graduate and tennis player himself, “so there is the realization that each match is a big one. On the same level, it’s important to stay within our means and not look ahead, taking things one match at a time. Besides that sense of urgency, we’re really working on improving our weaknesses, while maximizing our strengths to take things to the next level.”
After the graduation of last year’s first-singles player, Hannah Sholtz, as well as the second-doubles team and one member of the first-doubles team, this season’s roster was in need of some fine-tuning. Senior Grace Cummings took on the role of first-singles, while Kitty Cole and Delaney McMullen rounded out second- and third-singles, respectively.
The Lady Indians’ tennis lineup has been filled at first-singles team by Norma Brasure and Seung Son, while Ashlyn Calhoun and Sara Westhafer assumed the second-singles spot. Even the team’s exhibition players have shown promise and potential of working their way up to starting positions on the roster as the season progresses.
“All of the girls have adapted very well to the new lineup,” said McMullen, “with the underclassmen filling the vacant roles nicely. Everyone has done their part to make the group a cohesive unit, from position 1 to 13.”
The Lady Indians started their season debut with a clean sweep over Lake Forest on Thursday, March 22, but were halted, 4-1, by St. Thomas More last Friday, March 23. Delaney McMullen earned the team’s only win, but the Indians turned it around the following week, with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Polytech.
Wins came from Cole, McMullen, Brasure/Son and Calhoun/Westhafer, each of which were done in two sets, with no more than four total games allowed by opponents. Coach Conor McMullen even noticed sound victories in the Lake Forest win, as well, as the 5-0 victory came rather easily.
“The key in these wins,” he said, “has been the mental approach game-planning that the girls have been using when going into matches. Instead of just going out there and hitting the ball back and forth, we’ve worked on being much more cognizant of how they are approaching each point.”
Stepping in as a first-year head coach, McMullen is still learning the team, and his position, albeit brief in tenure, has come with plenty of responsibility.
“I would say the biggest challenge I’ve seen is really getting everyone playing to their full potential at all times,” he said. “I think the girls all know that they’re very capable of playing great tennis. It’s just a matter of maintaining focus and having confidence in their abilities.”
The girls will get their chance, though, as they headed to Seaford on Thursday, March 29 (after Coastal Point press deadline), then continue next week at Caesar Rodney on Tuesday, April 3.