Girls tennis: East improves as league meet approaches
When Jarrett Payne started his first season as East’s girls tennis coach, he wanted to see where everybody fit best, so he opened up all the spots in the lineup.
Even though senior Erin Courington and junior Alea Surender had played doubles together for the previous two years, qualifying for the Class 6A tournament, there were no guarantees they’d still be together.
“I didn’t want to break that (team),” Surender said. “We worked together all last year and went to state together.… I feel we’ve grown so much together as a team.”
Payne kept Courington and Surender paired up, and they head into Saturday’s City League meet at Wichita State’s Coleman Tennis Complex with a 6-2 league doubles record.
“It was pretty obvious,” Payne said of keeping the duo together. “When we did rankings matches, they were strides above everyone else. We’ve improved around them, but they’re still far above everyone else.”
East is 6-2 in team league play, as well, a major turnaround from 2012 when the Aces finished seventh and were 2-6.
“This season I just wanted them to go out and compete, to not lose their heads,” Payne said of his team. “Even if they were playing a stud from Kapaun or Carroll, I wanted them to work as hard as they can. If they lose 6-0, 6-0, it’s OK as long as they played hard. But I also didn’t want them to play down against another team that they should beat.”
East opened the season with a 9-0 win over North, but then lost to Carroll 7-2 and Kapaun 8-1 over the next two weeks.
“Those matches were at the beginning of the season, and it was nice to have, ‘This is where the compeition is, this is where we need to get our talent up to,’” Payne said. “We lost some matches pretty bad there, but it’s where we need to get to.”
East finished the regular season with 9-0 wins over Heights and Southeast, 8-1 over West and 6-3 over Northwest and South.
Courington and Surender not only complement each other on the court, they’re comfortable with each other.
“We communicate on the court,” Surender said. “We know each other’s thoughts on the court. I feel like we know exactly what the other is going to do.”
Payne added: “They keep each other up. They have a good rapport with each other. They’re finally starting to be a little more aggressive, getting to things they weren’t doing earlier. They’re starting to put everything together that I wanted them to.”
Courington’s strength is her ability to play consistently clean tennis. She’s scrappy, so she is able to keep the ball in play until the other team commits an error.
Payne points to Surender’s passion and competitivenes as her strongest qualities.
“She wants to win every match,” he said. “If she’s not winning, she’ll find a way to win.”
East also has a solid No. 1 singles player in Vitoria Nery, an exchange student from Brazil.
“She’s fun to watch play,” Payne said. “She’s out there having fun. Sometimes that’s a bad thing because sometimes she loses focus. But it’s a much better thing to have than someone who gets down on themselves.”