By Alexa Slone, Contributing Writer
Seven regular season titles? Check. Six conference titles? Check. Six-time national qualifiers? Check. These are the combined achievements of Asbury’s men’s and women’s tennis teams in the last six years. The tennis program is one of the most successful in the school, yet most of its accomplishments are unknown to those on campus since tennis isn’t as widely followed as a lot of other sports. Through hard work and a strong team dynamic, these teams have achieved far more than many people realize.
Coach Jarred Miller is starting his tenth year directing the men’s team and his eighth year with the women’s. He praises their talent, but admires their chemistry above all else. He believes that if the two teams didn’t get along the way they do, they wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are.
“There were some matches last year that the girls don’t think they could have pulled out if it wasn’t for the boys, sitting there and cheering for them,” Miller said. In his opinion, this relationship – along with the players’ ability and commitment – was what enabled both teams to win the conference tournament last year and qualify for nationals. It was the first time such a feat had ever been done in the history of Asbury tennis.
What does it take to win a conference title and qualify for nationals? Junior Brianna Gipson, one of the women’s captains, agrees with Miller that it’s the two teams’ bond that has enabled them to get this far. It also takes a lot of dedication, she said, during both the school year and the off-season. According to Gipson, in the summer the players “do daily workouts, go for runs and hit as much as possible” to stay sharp and ready for match play.
Combined, the teams have seven incoming freshmen this year. When asked how well they’ve integrated into the team dynamic, Miller summed it up by saying, “The girls are the core group of the team; the atmosphere begins and ends with them. The boys are used to feeling pressure, so they’re ready for some competition.” Great things are expected from these freshmen.
One freshman, Kendall Jablonowski, feels pressure to live up to the standards that have been set. “It’s intimidating to become part of a team that has accomplished so much,” Jablonowski said. “But I’m still excited for the season, and to see how different people perform throughout it.”
All in all, Asbury’s tennis teams seem ready to take on another season. Miller is optimistic and confident in both the returning players and the incoming freshmen. According to him, the teams’ bond has only become stronger. The tennis program is ready to meet and hopefully exceed the high expectations of their coaches, fans and players. It looks like this year Asbury might have to watch its tennis teams a little bit closer.