Wildcat girls have high hopes for tennis season

Herald file photo
Jasper's Priyal Sharma returns the ball during the tennis regional championship match in Jasper last year. 


JASPER — Right now the tennis courts at Jasper High School sit empty.

First, there was hope that school would resume in early April, then came Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order that schools remained closed until May 1. Wildcats girls tennis coach Scott Yarbrough was finishing preseason activities with the team when schools first closed, and had a talk with his players about the possible spring scenarios.

“We talked about all the different things that could happen,” Yarbrough said. “I think the girls are fully aware of what the possibilities are. We went through the process of, ‘When we get back, this is what’s going to happen. If not, then we’ll go in a different direction.’ I think we all knew there was a chance the season would be completely canceled depending on what the coronavirus did and how this played out.”

Since that discussion, Gov. Holcomb issued the statewide stay-at-home order which instructs citizens to stay home except for “when they are at work or for permitted activities.” Going outside for exercise falls within the “permitted activities” definition, though social distancing practices are still in effect. While Yarbrough can’t organize any official practices, he believes the girls are staying active in the meantime. One of the girls certainly can’t escape it.

“I’ve taken my daughter (junior Josie Yarbrough) out a couple of times and hit with her,” he said. “I’m sure there’s some kids jumping out getting on the city courts.”

Should they return to the court, the Wildcats want to hit the ground running. Last season marked their 30th straight sectional title, but the team lost to Washington at regionals and fell short of making it to state for the first time in four seasons. In the individual tournament, doubles players Suchi Bandaru and Yarbrough made it to state before bowing in the semifinals against Carmel’s Lauren Littell and Leila Antony. Yarbrough wants to get back to chasing titles, and he’s still excited about the combination of new and experienced players he has to work with.

“We were looking forward to this season,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young talent coming in. We’ve got six of our seven varsity girls coming back, and we were really excited coming off of that. Obviously, it’s going to be a little disappointing if that doesn’t happen.”

The Wildcats return their entire singles lineup. Seniors Taylor Marshall and Emma Reutepohler were the No. 1 and No. 3 players, respectively, and junior Priyal Sharma took the No. 2 slot. Yarbrough and Bandaru, who’s entering her senior season, were the top duo. Sophomore Delaney Wigand played at No. 2 doubles alongside former Wildcat Hadley Meyer. Freshmen Ally Wigand, Allie Schnarr, Brynne Brosmer and Brailyn Whaley look like they could make an immediate impact.

Though everyone had their roles last season, Yarbrough was looking forward to tinkering with the lineup this year. This year’s team has a lot of girls who can play in either singles or doubles spots, and Yarbrough wants to exploit that versatility as much as possible. He’d planned on tailoring the singles play strategy according to whoever earned those spots, but he’s certain on what he wants from the doubles teams this year.

“The one thing we want to get back to this season is being aggressive at the net from a doubles standpoint,” Yarbrough said. “We want to get back to the old way of getting in more serve-and-volley and trying to finish points off quicker.”

The team discussed getting back to the state finals as well as defending their conference title in what would be the Big Eight’s final spring. But right now, getting back on the courts would be a much-needed positive in the wake of life after the pandemic.

“These girls want nothing more than to be back out on the tennis court,” he said. “We definitely want things to be back to normal. If the season got continued, it means a lot of good stuff. It means their families are safe, and it gives them a chance to showcase what they’re capable of doing. If we’re back on the tennis court this spring, it means a lot of good things are happening.”

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