Girls tennis overcomes early obstacles to continue success

Despite+setbacks+throughout+the+season%2C+players+like+Sydney+Burner%2C+sophomore%2C+were+able+to+find+success.+

Blair Martin

Despite setbacks throughout the season, players like Sydney Burner, sophomore, were able to find success.

Lining the walls of the tennis team clubhouse is the history of Homestead tennis. From floor to ceiling hang photos of almost every team that has played there, faces of girls long departed from the courts — except for those who returned with their own daughters. When players look up at those teams on the wall, they see generations of dedicated athletes, groups of singles and doubles players just like them who rose to the pressure of the program. After all, nine of those picture-preserved teams managed to win state championships, and even more stood on individual podiums. Such a room as the tennis clubhouse can be daunting, but it can also be empowering.
Unlike in previous years, the 2021 girls tennis team was not set after the first week of practice. Or the second. Or the third. Due to injuries and illness, the lineup was constantly changing throughout the season.
“When I sprained my ankle before the season even began, it was disappointing,” Chloe Bento Monteiro, senior, said. “I was looking forward to playing with this team and contributing to our successes, but that one injury took me out of play for all of it.”
With all the uncertainty, it fell to veteran players like Ellie Sprinkmann, senior and captain, to rise to the challenge. As the first singles flight, Sprinkmann won eight of her nine conference matches.
“I tried to have everyone think about the changes in a positive way,” Sprinkmann said. “I wanted us to say that we could step up and take on new positions, going higher and excelling for ourselves.”
New to the squad in the 2021 season were Elsa Heinrich and Julia Nill, freshmen. Both were standouts on the singles side, with Henrich playing second and Nill playing fourth. They scored the clinching points in the team’s 4-3 win against Cedarburg in September, and Heinrich later qualified for the individual state tournament.
“The season was an amazing experience,” Heinrich said. “The team was super welcoming, and I can’t wait to play again next year.”
The framed photos that hang from the tennis clubhouse walls tell a story. They share the history of the team, student-athletes from vastly different eras, united in Homestead red and white. Most of those women have since gone on to colleges, to careers, to worlds far away from the 11 courts where they spent their high school careers. However, their contribution to the program will always remain in the players that look up at their images and find strength. There is pressure that comes with a storied past, but there is also a certain pride, a call to honor the players past and present who made the team what it is today, to rise from adversity and win matches.
“[The photos] motivate us to try to get to where those players were and how we used to be as a team,” Sprinkmann said. “Even though we didn’t end up reaching that this year, what we did, especially with the obstacles that we went through, was have a season that went extremely well.”

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