As the St. Helens High School girls tennis team wraps up another season, coach Mark McQueen is pleased with how his squad has progressed day to day.
This season, matches have outnumbered practices.
"This being COVID and all, we really had five days to practice, and then after that first week of practices, we had more matches the rest of the way than we had practices," McQueen said.
He added, "One positive from that is we were actually able to do a lot more one-on-one coaching and really work on swings, really work on strokes and really work on serves. I would say, more so than any of the past years, we have seen progress just every single day. So that's been fantastic."
The season won't conclude with the record the girls had hoped for — the team has gone 1-10 — but McQueen noted, "A few of those matches we played 6A teams, and yes, they were better than us. They did what they were supposed to do, being a 6A team going against a 5A team."
McQueen explained, "Wilsonville, Parkrose, McMinnville — they have bigger schools and programs, and stuff set up so the kids can play year-round. We don't have indoor facilities or anything like that. We just go and do our best. We played McMinnville (May 5), and they're a school of 2,000. We are definitely not a school of 2,000."
He continued, "We lost 0-9, but last night going against that higher competition, it's one of the most proud I've been of the girls this year. Nobody just bowed to them. They fought hard. They hit hard."
A couple of freshman standouts have helped the tennis team this year. Lucie Polvogt and Ayla Clark will be singles partners for the next four years.
"Their upswing is dynamite," McQueen said. "They come in every day. They ask questions. They're here all the time. They work on it, they stay late after practice."
Other standouts include Amanda Taylor, who is a senior who plays doubles, and Drew Erickson, whom McQueen says is St. Helens' top singles player.
"She goes against the other school's top competition," McQueen said of Erickson. "She hasn't won them all, but she's always fighting, and she's always getting to three sets. She always stays positive."
Describing how close some of the contests have been this year, McQueen noted, "Five of the matches that we lost either 3-5 or 4-5, we've had 16 tiebreakers and we've only won two. If you just put it at 50-50 on those tiebreakers, we would have won three of those matches. That's how incredibly close this season has been."
McQueen is pleased with the spirit on the team.
"The battles have been good, the matches have been good, the rallies have been good," he said. "Our spirits are still good. Vegas would not be surprised if either team won. We've just been on the short side a few times."
McQueen wants his team members to love the game of tennis.
"Tennis is a sport that you can play the rest of your life," he said. "I'm 45 and injury-prone. I play five days a month with my friends. I want to instill this love of tennis with these girls, so they're doing it the rest of their lives."
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