Young tennis team led by sensational junior
Oct 04, 2017 01:26PM
● By Ron Bevan
Alta junior Emily Astle leads a young girls tennis team as the number one singles player. Astle has two state titles already under her belt and hopes to add a third this season. (Ron Bevan/City Journals)
The ball hasn’t even been hit yet, but there is a bit of fear, a nervous trepidation, coming across the server as she looks across the net at her opponent, Emily Astle, perhaps the best high school tennis player in the entire state.
Astle has already put herself in a position to pounce on the ball. And when it arrives, she attacks with an aggression that belies her youthful age. She looks like a seasoned college pro, and strikes the ball with a combination of precision and power that could be mistaken for a player much older.
But off the court, Astle is still learning the nuances of driving a car. She is only a junior, but her tennis game is much more advanced than that.
“She is an amazing player,” Alta tennis coach Kallie Rice said of Astle. “She not only has the power in her stroke, but she stays calm and poised throughout her matches. Even when she is behind in the count, she doesn’t panic. She just keeps to her game plan and finds a way to win.”
Winning isn’t new to Astle, the no. 1 singles player for the Alta Hawks this year. She is the reigning 4A state singles champion, a title she won both her freshman and sophomore years. During those championship runs, she only lost one match.
“A lot of players as good as she is and with the record she has tend to get a little full of themselves, like they are better than everyone else,” Rice said. “That’s not the case with Astle. She is one of the most humble people around, and is constantly helping others improve their games.”
But Astle won’t be defending her 4A state titles this season. Alta moved back into the 5A ranks, where the competition is much stiffer. But Astle has her eye on adding a 5A title to her belt. She is currently undefeated in all matches.
Astle has been on the radar of collegiate programs for years. She has already made her decision, and has verbally committed to playing for BYU in two years.
Astle is just one of several underclassmen on the Alta Hawks team this season. In fact, there are only two seniors playing for the Hawks: Ally Marquez and Tori Knight.
Marquez is on the no. 1 doubles team with junior Sophie Emery, a duo Rice expects to see accomplish some goals this season.
“Doubles is more of a strategy game than is singles,” Rice said. “There are plays you can draw up as far as positioning between the two players. Marquez and Emery work super well together. They complement each other’s playing style.”
Knight handles the no. 2 singles position on the junior varsity squad.
“She sets a great example for the rest of the team,” Rice said. “She runs after every single ball.”
The Hawks look to Sarah Ovard for the no. 2 singles slot on the varsity team. Ovard, a sophomore this year, made it to the semifinals of the state tournament last season as a freshman.
“Ovard is a player who works hard during the off season to improve her game,” Rice said. “We only have a month and a half with the girls as a team, so sometimes they can forget about their game for 10 months and not improve much. Ovard stays busy all year round and her game has improved so much it sets an example of what hard work can do for other players.”
In the no. 3 singles slot is sophomore Brinley Horton. She did not play for the Hawks last year, having moved to Texas where she learned a different regional style of play.
“Tennis up here seems to be a quiet game,” Rice said. “Down in Texas, the teams get noisy and cheer each other on. Not only did it make Horton super competitive, but she is our cheerleader. She has learned how to bring everyone on the team together.”
In the no. 2 doubles slot are juniors Katie Winegar and Savannah Beck, two players who bring an aggressive attitude to the sport.
“Sometimes doubles teams just wait for the other team to miss the ball,” Rice said. “These two try to win every point by playing formations.”