Girls junior varsity tennis: exploring the underdog team


By Shanthi Chackalackal, Eugenia Chen, and Maggie Terry



    Nothing is harder than serving a tennis ball during Iowa’s windy season.  Nothing–except serving a tennis ball during Iowa’s windy season when one has only just learned how to serve.  And that is exactly the dilemma that many members of West High girls junior varsity tennis are facing right now.


“[The first practice was] ridiculous actually, and the wind was horrible,” said Lexi Stephens ’15.

    In addition to bad weather, JV has a shortage of available courts.  Moreover, the Coralville Courts, where junior varsity would typically practice, had not put up nets by the first practice.  And so the first day was spent freezing, playing nine girls to a court and imagining nets.


    Luckily, the girls haven’t been deferred by weather.  So far they have braved harsh winds and plummeting temperatures, ignoring their frostbitten fingers with a resilience worthy of varsity.


    So what is it that makes tennis worth losing fingers?

   “I think for a lot of people its kind of why I like tennis,” said Velarchana Santhana ’14,“ it’s an easy sport to pick up when you’re in high school and it’s more of an individual sport versus a team sport. You don’t necessarily have to have been playing your entire life.”

    Junior Varsity provides a great learning environment–more relaxed then varsity, not stressful.  People without much tennis experience can improve through drills and group activities.   Tennis is not an easy sport; the complex rules and multitude of strokes are enough to confuse anyone.  But many people have been able to pick it up through JV.


“I’ve been doing tennis since sophomore year and I thought it was a way to get involved with a sport, even though I hadn’t really done any before then. But it was pretty easy to pick up after I had a few lessons,” Santhana said.


“I wanted to try something new and get involved for West High so I decided tennis would be a good, more laid back sport for the spring,” said Stephens. “We’re all kind of crazy actually, but its not very competitive, it’s just fun and everyone enjoys themselves and has a good time.”

The girls can play for fun and for points without feeling like the honor of West High is in their hands.

“JV tennis is more about improving your tennis than the competitive side of things,” said tennis coach Erika Mundt.   But that’s not to say that JV is a joke.  It’s a serious team.


   This year, more than ever, JV is a team of intermediates, not beginners.  The large team size and lack of resources led to cuts.  Though unfortunate, the cuts may have good results.


“I kind of got the idea that I would get cut,” said Noelle Jung ’17, “I didn’t work hard enough.  But I’ll take lessons and try out next year, and hopefully I’ll get in.”  The team is still pretty large, however.

“There are a lot of new girls because we lost some seniors, but thats good,” said Stephens, “now that I know a lot more people I think its more fun.”

    Those who did make the team will be tested soon enough–the first match comes up on Wednesday, April 9th.


    Monday the 31st of March–the first practice afters–starts off with four laps around the courts and a series of knee-highs and butt-kicks that make the girls regret their tennis skirts.  Then partners get together for doubles, starting off with casual volleys until they’ve warmed up, then slamming the ball mercilessly.

    Exceptionally merciless, in contrast to her friendly personality, is Sydney Shie ’17.   Although she is only a freshman, she is the last woman standing in a competitive one-strike-you’re-out game called Queen of the Court.

“Look at that!” the team shouts, “The baby is winning!”

    Shie has more going for her than her powerful forehands and backhands; she’s got the element of surprise.   One of the youngest and smallest team members, Shie’s prowess will be unexpected to most of the opposition.  So much the better for West High.

      Shie is not the only good player; this year’s team is full of experienced members.

“We are pretty good,” says Mundt, “This group is a fun and focused group.”

    With quite a few strong players, it looks like girls JV may do very well this season.

“I’m looking forward to meets,” grins Santhana.

      So that is what makes people love tennis: the stress relief, the camaraderie, the relaxed environment coupled with a drive to win…

“Tennis is a really fun way for me to get rid of stress and I just like hitting a bunch of balls,” Santhana said, “I love the people on the team.”