Edwardsville underclassmen ready for fall tennis season

Edwardsville underclassmen ready for fall tennis season
Written by highergroundintl

Edwardsville coach David Lipe has never had to enter a season with the thought of rebuilding.

And that will stay true for the incoming girls tennis season this fall, as the top six of the varsity lineup feature a freshman and two sophomores.

“That’s healthy for a program,” Lipe said. “Every year, we’ve been able to replace graduating players with incoming players who have gone through our camps and academies.”

Katie Woods is the lone freshman newcomer in that varsity mix. She is no stranger to the Tigers program, having competed in Junior Team Tennis for Edwardsville. Most recently, she was a member of the 14U team that finished fourth at the USTA Missouri Valley Sectional in Edmond, Oklahoma.

“My biggest goal is to make fun memories and learn how to be a team player,” Woods said. “I want to win as much as I can and have fun doing it.”

Woods has been playing tennis since she was five years old. Callaghan Adams, the program’s all-time winningest player with 166 career wins at EHS, was one of her older brother’s friends and got Woods into playing.

Although the freshman is looking at being in the No. 2 spot for singles, she’s ready to take on the challenge.

“I’m nervous at times,” Woods said, “but I’m just going to go out there and play. All the friends and memories you make is the most fun part.”

Another underclassman that has a connection to Adams is her cousin, Gabi Hill.

Hill played with Adams and took lessons at the YMCA at a young age.

The sophomore went 20-15 last year as a freshman. She was the Southwestern Conference champion for the No. 6 singles flight and was on the All-Southwestern Conference third team for singles.

“I just like playing the game,” Hill said about her favorite part of tennis. “It’s exciting.”

One of Hill’s first varsity matches last year featured a near two-hour first set against Belleville East’s Reese Altepeter. Hill won that first set 7-6, after winning the tiebreaker 7-2. Hill then won the second set 7-5.

“I was nervous at the time,” Hill said. “I said I wasn’t nervous, but I was. I was really proud of myself for continuing to fight and push through.”

The one area that Hill has worked the most on is her confidence.

“I know what to expect now, so I’m more confident,” Hill said. “I’m really excited for the season.”

Lipe said that her newfound tennis confidence is not surprising, since every time he visited the EHS Tennis Center over the summer he would find Hill here by nearly hitting tennis balls.

“(Hill) made a huge jump this offseason,” Lipe said. “She worked really hard this summer. She looks great.”

Unlike Woods and Hill, sophomore Sophie Byron hasn’t been playing tennis most of her life.

She grew up playing soccer, while her sister Zoe played volleyball.

After participating in winter workouts with the tennis program a few years ago, the two sisters switched sports. Zoe is now a senior for the Tigers.

Sophie finished her freshman season 20-20 and was named the SWC Rookie of the Year. She was a finalist in the No. 5 singles flight in the SWC tournament.

“I’m really hoping to be in the varsity lineup regularly and win the majority of my matches,” Sophie said. “I’m really stoked for the season. There’s lot of excitement, but I’m a little nervous.”

Although she’s a regular singles player, Sophie prefers to play doubles, especially alongside her friends.

“Playing tennis with my friends makes it fun,” Sophie said. “Tennis also always keeps you on your toes. There’s always something to do.”

Sophie added that her freshman year taught her how to control and understand the flow of a match.

EHS opens its season at the New Trier Invitational on August 26-27.

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