Girls tennis makes Grady history


Courtesy of Emma Menzies

After clinching the No. 1 seed from Region 6-AAAAA and finishing in the semifinals for the first time, the girls tennis team made Grady history.

Cole Parker

The girls tennis team made Grady history after qualifying for the playoffs as the No. 1 seed from Region 6-AAAAA and finishing in the semifinals for the first time.

The Knights’ playoff run ended after losing 3-1 to the Northview Titans, who were the No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAAAA.

Going into the season, the girls had high expectations.

“We were just going to try to get as far as we could,” senior co-captain Emma Menzies said. “We were pretty optimistic because we felt we had a very strong team.”

However, throughout the season, the girls were underestimated, making their success even more rewarding.

“They had an incredible season,” co-head coach Sandi Stein said. “It was like a Cinderella year. In other words, no one expected us to do well. Everyone’s eyes were on the boys team, and we just went into each match like, ‘Let’s just do our best and have fun with it.’ We ended up 15-3 for the season and third in the state, so I’m very pleased with that.”

The team’s depth of talent and relaxed spirit gave the girls a leg up on their opponents.

“We had a very well-rounded starting line, but also, none of us took it extremely seriously,” Menzies said. “We were all just in it to have fun.”

The girls’ high level of team chemistry also set them apart from their opponents and allowed them to maximize their potential.

“They all were having fun with it, and they enjoyed each other’s company,” Stein said. “They pushed each other to be the best they could be. There were never really any easy days of practice or matches.”

Similarly, co-head coach Val Taylor recognized the girls’ ability to support each other through the highs and lows as a fundamental part of the team’s character.

“They’re comrades in battle,” Taylor said. “They cheer when someone’s up; they cheer when someone’s down.”

Stein cited the girls’ nonstop mentality as the backbone of the team’s identity.

“They were relentless,” Stein said. “They just pursued every opportunity and tried to make the best out of every situation they were in. They weren’t going to give up, and they were going to fight until the end.”

Taylor praised senior co-captain Michelle Durst for molding the team into a tightly-knit family.

“She led the girls through a player’s perspective in that she would always stay and cheer for every match,” Taylor said. “She always had something positive to say. The girls listened to her and tried to emulate her.”

Taylor also spoke highly of Stein, who was new to the coaching staff.

“Coach Stein knows how to rally the troops by her verbiage,” Taylor said. “I knew we were deep athletically, but coach Stein made the gel of the team. If you’re really confident, and the coach says, ‘You’re a rock star,’ you play with a little skip in your step. She made each and every girl feel confident within themselves.”

Likewise, Menzies expressed gratitude for Stein.

“She was a great coach,” Menzies said. “In previous years, we’ve had wonderful coaches, but she was one of the best we’ve ever had mainly because she was really able to round us together as a team. That really helped create a community in our little team.”

Although the team is losing Durst and Menzies to graduation, the girls are ready for next season.

“We will lose two seniors, so those will be great losses because they are both captains and doubles players,” Stein said. “But, we’ve got some other kids in the pipeline that will have to fill those shoes, so that will be helpful.”

For Menzies, making Grady history was the perfect end to her high school tennis career.

“It really feels great because I was on the team as a freshman, and since then, we’ve never really made it far in the state tournament,” Menzies said. “So, ending on such a high note really makes me happy because all of our hard work really paid off when it mattered.”