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.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Xavier freshman tennis players start strong

 The future of Xavier Prep tennis is in good hands.

Two freshman teams were unleashed and proceeded to have outstanding seasons, 11-0 for the Blue Team and 8-2 for the Green Team, signaling optimism for the Varsity group over the next few years.

The Blue and the Green combined to have five unbeaten singles players – Julia Chrostowski and Gabrielle Dinan for the Green Team and Lara Shennib, Chayse Clingan and Nitya Reddymasu for the Blue.

All of this was accomplished without a “true’’ home, while the school’s tennis center was being reconstructed and upgraded. Most of the home matches were played at neighboring Central High. Among the top competitive opponents were Chandler Hamilton, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Tempe Corona del Sol and Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.

Between the Green and Blue teams and the non-competitive practice squads, 71 players participated. The 54 beginning players practiced on Fridays for seven weeks.

According to head coach Judith Hernandez, all of the inexperienced players learned how to hold a racquet, how to score, and how important that fitness and footwork are to the game. The learning curve continued with the reliance on the forehand, the backhand and the serve. Starting with Week 7, these girls played their first tennis game with their teammates.

Hernandez could not have done all of this alone. She had four assistants (Amy Gallo, Ford Oliver, Barbara Holcomb and Lara Murphy) and hard-working senior team manager Alison Harris.

”I am grateful to the coaches and (athletic) staff members who helped make Freshman Tennis possible during the construction of the new tennis courts,’’ Hernandez said.

She added that the goal of Freshman Tennis at Xavier is to provide players who have tennis experience the opportunity to compete with teams from other schools.

 “We are also very fortunate at Xavier to have the ability to offer a no-cut season (started years ago by Varsity coach Laurie Martin) to players who have the desire to learn a new sport. Tennis can be a life-long sport and we are privileged to have the support of the administration to offer Freshman Tennis.’’

And the goals of everyone can reach beyond the court.

“Connecting with students who enjoy the game is a wonderful way to build lasting friendships during the season,’’ Hernandez said. “The coaching staff couldn’t be more proud of the way the players have come together as teammates who supported each other on and off the court.

“The Green and Blue competitive teams had the opportunity to experience a tennis season that helped each of them learn about themselves as competitive players. It was important to us as a team to instill in each player to be a gracious loser as well as a gracious winner.’’

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