Wins for the Granite City girls tennis team don’t come as often as coach Ashley Swip would like, but on and off the court, Swip feels the Warriors program is headed in the right direction.
Granite City, which had a 4-12 record in dual matches last season, hopes to improve on that mark despite a host of new faces.
“We have really good teams in the (Southwestern) conference like Edwardsville and Belleville West, plus Triad, which is a good non-conference opponent,” Swip said. “But we did beat some pretty good teams like Roxana and CM (Civic Memorial).
“We graduated all of our top six, so it’s essentially a brand new varsity lineup. We had a really big group of juniors last year and this year we have four seniors in our top six. We also have a large group of juniors this year, so we’ll have a ton of seniors next year as well.”
Claire Wendel steps in the No. 1 spot for the Warriors, with fellow senior Katelyn Peck at No. 2. Junior Kim Galbraith is at No. 3 followed by senior Deanna Gergen. Sophomore Amy Guo and senior Gaby Magana round out the top six. Doubles combinations are Wendel and Peck at No. 1, Galbraith and Guo at No. 2 and Gergen and Magana at No. 3.
Juniors Lynnzey Talley and Marissa Peppers are the seventh and eighth players on the varsity roster.
“We did a lot of things differently in the offseason to prepare for this year,” Swip said. “We had team workouts at Tanks (Training Facility in Granite City) and the girls all played in tournaments during the summer. Some of them also took private lessons and went to camps.
“We usually had 16 or more girls come to our summer workouts. Our team dedication is really big this year and that’s one of the things we’ve lacked in the past.”
Granite City opened the season Aug. 22 with a 6-3 loss to McCluer North. The Warriors lost 9-0 to Triad on Aug. 28 and ??? to O’Fallon on Aug. 29.
“Every match against McCluer North was close with a lot of tiebreakers, but we just couldn’t pull out enough of them,” Swip said.
The Warriors, who played in the Edwardsville Tournament last weekend, were scheduled to return to action Tuesday with a home match against Belleville West. They play Wednesday at Edwardsville and Thursday at Collinsville.
“We have some potential to improve,” Swip said. “We’re working on learning the game and trying to outsmart your opponent. We’re using video technology and I’m working with the girls about thinking what corrections they need to do while the game is going on.
“I’m very competitive and I want to win every match, but these are high school girls and they’re not to be playing pro tennis when they’re 35. If they can learn life skills like punctuality and learning how to work together, they’ll be successful.”
The second annual “Ace for the Cure” match, a fundraiser to fight cancer, is slated for Wednesday at Edwardsville. Swip started the event in honor of her brother, Guy Tyler Gifford of Collinsville, who died of metastatic melanoma cancer at age 28 on Nov. 2, 2010.
“We had 150 to 200 people at last year’s match, which brings awareness to high school girls tennis as well as to cancer,” Swip said. “People can make donations and we’re selling T-shirts. We’re selling laminated tennis balls for $1 that we’ll hang on the fence at Edwardsville and people can write the name of somebody they want to honor.”
Proceeds from the event go to Swip’s charity, 3 Little Birds 4 Life, which grants wishes to and enhances the lives of young adult cancer patients (ages 18-40).
“That all came about through my brother and us wanting to do something for them before he died,” Swip said. “We’re the only foundation in the country that does this. I let the girls choose which charity this match would raise money for I’m happy they chose my charity because we help people all over the St. Louis area.
“Just like last year, I’ll give an award to an Edwardsville player and (Edwardsville coach) Dave Lipe will give an award to a Granite City player, which is based on a being a good team player as well as a student and athlete. We’ll also have food that people can buy plus a silent auction, so there will be a lot of activities for the crowd.”
For more information, contact Swip at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-977-0519, or go to 3littlebirds4life.org.