DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Freshman players developing love for tennis

How popular is the sport of tennis among Xavier’s freshman class?
Head coach Laurie Martin reports that 84 players came out in the early days of practice, compared to approximately 60 in previous years.
Figuring that this year’s freshman class has approximately 320 students, it means that one fourth of the class is playing tennis.
The excitement and anticipation are due to the fact that Martin does not “cut’’ players. The no-cut policy helped her gain a handful of national awards in the 2014-15 school year.
Some players come in with experience while others do not. Teams will be broken down into a Blue and a White, with others playing against each other while developing their skills.
It is gratifying for Martin and her assistants, daughter Amanda Martin and Barb Chura, who also is the XCP varsity soccer coach.
“Very much so,’’ said Laurie Martin. “No matter the level where the girls start, it is rewarding to watch them grow. Ball placement, grip, topspin, just learning to compete . . . for many of them, this is probably the first situation where they have competed. Above all, you (as a coach) have to be patient.
“We want to expose them to what could become a lifetime sport, to have them improve and feel good about themselves.’’
Martin tries to keep parents informed about the team and players and outlines the season and what is expected of the players with a packet of information distributed to parents at an introductory meeting.
Xavier’s White team opens with three matches on the first three days of September. It will be matched against Chandler Basha on the road on Sept. 1, followed by a home match against Chandler High on Sept. 2 and then an intrasquad match of sorts against the Xavier Blue team on Sept. 3.
Laurie Martin was not sure about which players would be on which teams, but has a couple of girls who are likely to get the No. 1 spot on each – Emily Good and Kate Stegman.
Both girls have been playing for at least four years and already have noticed improvement during practices here.
“I’ve picked up more speed on my serves and shots,’’ Stegman said.
“I’m moving more and getting to the ball faster,’’ Good reported.
Another challenge for the players is learning to manage their time between playing and studying.
“It has been a little difficult at first because there is a little more homework,’’ Stegman said.
Good has readjusted quickly to tennis after a summer spent sailing with her family off San Diego’s Coronado Island. Stegman played a lot of tennis while vacationing with her family on the San Juan islands just off the coast of Seattle.
Good is interested in art, particularly painting, while Stegman enjoys keeping in shape through dance.
“I have enjoyed being at Xavier so far and all of us are looking forward to the season,’’ Good said.

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