No drama, just determination on Alta girls tennis teamSep 09, 2021 11:09AM ● By Ron Bevan
Lucy Lesueur attacks the ball during a recent Alta girls tennis match. Lesueur is one of eight seniors on the team this season, making Alta one of the most seasoned teams in the region. (Ron Bevan/City Journals)
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
Sporting teams like to talk about being a family, of being a close-knit group. Team members like to say they have known each other forever and have a tight bond.
For the Alta Hawks girls tennis team, truer words couldn’t be spoken. The Hawks have eight seniors on this year’s roster. Seven of the eight have been with the program four straight years.
“I have known all of the senior girls except for one for all of their careers at the school,” Alta tennis coach Kallie Rice said. “A few of them I have even known since they were very young.”
The seniors are part of the reason Rice returned to coaching Alta. She has been Alta’s coach for several years, but didn’t coach the girls during the 2020 season due to her pregnancy.
“I wanted to come back this year and coach because I am very close to this team,” Rice said. “I felt I had to for this group.”
Alta’s senior corps this year includes Grace Anthony, Eliza Bingham, Jane Callister, Kate DeBry, Brooklyn Dowdell, Lucy Lesueur, Rebecca Russell and Quincy Wright. All but Callister have been on the Alta roster since ninth grade. Callister joined last season as a junior after moving into the area from California.
“We are strongest right now having a full senior lineup. We hang out all the time and have become very close to each other,” Lesueur said.
The seniors have taken a sort of a leadership mantel on their shoulders. Being such a large group of classmates means they have younger eyes watching them. This means they can set a tone that the others follow. To that end, the seniors long ago instituted a conduct policy they follow.
“There is no drama on this team,” Wright said. “We instituted a no drama rule. Instead we communicate. It is nice to be able to communicate and not have any problems from it.”
“We have never had an issue with this group as far as drama, fighting or backbiting,” Rice added.
The maturity level of the girls doesn’t mean they always see eye to eye, it just means they find ways to deal with it.
“Each individual girl has such a unique personality,” DeBry said. “That’s what makes our team so fun. Everybody is so different but we are able to come together and still perform together so well.”
When discussing the different types of personalities on the team, Rice quickly mentioned Wright, who does a charitable function away from the courts.
“She fosters dogs so every so often she will bring some puppies to practice to help lighten the mood,” Rice said.
Having eight seniors means at least one will not play varsity at every match. There are only seven spots available on the varsity roster, three singles players and two doubles teams. And there are underclassmen vying for spots on the varsity as well.
In fact, the first match of the season had six of the seniors on varsity and one junior. But the team is still in a growing period to see where players will fit the best.
“All eight seniors have the potential to be on the varsity team,” Rice said. “They are all very gifted and can fill in where needed.”
Currently, Russell leads off as the No. 1 singles player. Russell was also the No. 1 singles player last year. She played doubles as a sophomore and made it to the final match at state that season.
“Russell brings experience and maturity to the team,” Rice said. “She is a calming presence to the team and does well under pressure. It is really nice because she helps lead practices and gives advice to the girls while also being coachable herself.”
Seniors Dowdell and Anthony make up the No. 1 doubles team. Rice likes the pairing of Dowdell and Anthony, in part because of the different strengths they bring.
“I feel like they complement each other very well,” Rice said. “Both are very competitive but come at it from a different approach. Dowdell is high energy and Anthony has a maturity for her age. Plus Dowdell is left handed while Anthony plays right handed, so they can cover the court well.”
Lesueur is holding down the No. 2 singles spot, while Callister is looking to lock down No. 3 singles in a battle for the spot with DeBry and Wright.
Bingham returns to doubles play, holding on to the No. 2 doubles team with varying partners. Last year, Callister was her partner. Callister has moved to singles play.
“(Callister) was new to the team last year but we bonded quickly,” Bingham said. “Now she is one of my best friends.”
Another part of the reason this year’s team seems like a big family is because of the coaching staff. While Rice is the head coach, Lori Sperry is helping her as her assistant coach. Sperry is the boys coach at Alta in the spring. She also happens to be Rice’s mother.
“My mom and I are best friends, and I love her so much,” Rice said. “It has been an incredible and unforgettable experience to be able to coach alongside her and learn from her.”
While Alta’s strength may lie in experience, the Hawks know they are in one of the toughest regions in state play. Rice is confident, however, the team can make a run for the region title.
“The nice thing about these seniors is they work so hard during the off season,” Rice said. “That is important because there is 10 months of offseason. If you don’t prepare then, you won’t be ready for the two months that a high school season has.”