Girls tennis team looking to string up more than victories
A tennis ball whizzes by a surprised Olivia Powers. “How did I miss that?” she asks.
“Ask yourself why you missed,” Coach Geoff Swett tells her, “and then answer the question.”
The Wareham girls tennis team is on the court for one of five practices that they have every week. The team is made up to 10 girls, ranging from seventh graders to seniors. When practice begins, three players are on the court. Several are busy with other school projects. Powers herself is fresh from work behind the scenes on a high school production of “Cloud Shapers.” Fellow team member Natalia Moulding appears shortly afterwards, returning from classes at Bridgewater State.
Swett starts practice with a one-on-one match up against “The Lobster.” It’s the affectionate name for a bright red machine which lobs tennis balls at the players from the other side of the net. Each time they hit the ball out of bounds, they move to the back of the line. “Your goal is 10 points in a row,” Swett tells Team Captain Elise Abbott, a senior. “Everyone else, decide your number.”
After exhausting The Lobster’s supply of tennis balls, Swett sends the players around to collect the scattered balls, then plays against them himself, offering several tricky shots to test his players’ responses.
Swett goes on to tell his team that tennis is a networking game. “It’s good for a career, like golf!” Thinking for a moment, he adds with a laugh, “I’ll tell you it’s cheaper than golf is, too.”
Sophomore Ariel Lemieux’s first experience with tennis came as part of the team. Swett says her story isn’t unusual. The vast majority of the tennis team encountered the game for the first time upon joining. Moulding, who picked up a tennis racket for the first time in sixth grade, is an exception rather than a rule.
Swett acknowledges that the relative lack of experience can be a drawback when playing against other teams, whom he says are often filled with people “who have been playing since they were five years old.”
That being said, he has a bigger goal than winning matches in mind. While he seeks to improve on the previous year’s record with every new season, other things take up more of his attention: constant development of his players, and fostering a lifelong love of the game.
“Tennis is a game you can play through your entire life,” he explains. “It keeps you trim and it’s invigorating.”
His team agrees. Lemieux admitted she initially joined the team because it would look good on college applications. Now into her second year on the team, she says she stayed because of how fun the game turned out to be. Senior teammate Elizabeth Griffith echoes her statements. “It’s a good time, and because there are only 10 of us, we can be close with everyone on the team.”