Symone Summiel couldn’t imagine a better start to her final year of tennis with the Ewing High School girls team. The Ewing senior won the deciding point for the Blue Devils in a 3-2 win over Hamilton West to open the season Sept. 7.
“It was huge,” Summiel said. “I don’t think I’ve ever won a match like that. It was an exciting moment.”
As thrilled as she was to earn her first victory at third singles, she was even more excited that she could share it with her teammates. Second-singles Dasha Eisenhower also won a point for Ewing as did Olivia Ross and Kaia Robinson at first doubles. Some years Ewing has gone weeks before earning a team win, but this year they started 1-0.
“The energy was huge and everybody was hugging and giving high fives,” Summiel said. “It felt good. There was a lot of positive feedback and love and support from the teammates. It just helped us grow as a team and it brought us closer.”
Unfortunately, the win didn’t build much momentum for the rest of the season, with the team finishing 2-13.
The Blue Devils had a new look from a year ago. All three of their singles players started in doubles a year ago and climbed the ladder this year. Emani Wilson moved up to first singles, Eisenhower slid into second singles and Summiel jumped to third singles.
“I wanted to play singles since 10th grade,” Summiel said. “The previous years, I thought it was more of a fun thing to do and not as serious. I’m more serious about it.”
Ross and Robinson were a new varsity combination at first doubles, while second doubles consisted of Christine Krah and Janiah Patterson. The team had strong leadership from its senior core.
“This group, they’re hungry to learn,” said Ewing head coach Christina Mosteller. “They want to be there. Emani went from doubles to playing singles. She’s looking for singles strategy that she can play with her game. She doesn’t have the experience of some of the other first singles players, but she’s looking for what she can do to extend the points.
“Symone is looking for things she can do to improve her game. Olivia is helping the girls in doubles.”
For the first three years, Summiel is got accustomed to playing with a partner in doubles. This year, she was on her own.
“It’s definitely an experience,” Summiel said. “I actually look forward to playing these challenging matches because it makes me a stronger player and it allows me to see how the more skillful teams play so I can learn from them and grow as a tennis player. It might be a little frustrating when you lose, but it feels good to grow as a tennis player when you play more skillful players.”
The Blue Devils were pulling for Summiel or Wilson to finish off the win. In the end, it was Summiel who came through with the third point with a 6-3, 7-5 win.
“She did well,” Mosteller said. “Neither one of them knew they were deciding match. It helps them not to know. Some players want to know. Even though one couldn’t clinch it, they were happy one could. They look at it as a team as opposed to an individual.”
Team chemistry is a big emphasis for Ewing. The Blue Devils talk about being sisters, not teammates and take seriously their commitment to each other. It helped Summiel to know that others were counting on her.
“I love my teammates,” she said. “I think they’re really amazing individuals and they have their own minds and opinions. They’re determined. They try their best. They’re always at practice and trying to become better players. I just think they’re beautiful individuals and I’m glad to play with them.”
Ewing uses a mentor system that buddies up an older player with a younger one. They work to develop the future of the program and learn to love the game.
“They build them up,” Mosteller said. They give them letters that says what’s great about them. In this day and age, it’s hard to have a lot of girls around each other. We try to make it family oriented and look out for each other and respect and protect them.”
The players work with each other on the court as well. They started laying the foundation for bonding together in tennis in the preseason.
“Emani and Kaia, this is her second year in and she’s done well, they would stay in preseason all morning to help with the underclassmen and the new players,” Mosteller said. “Symone stayed a couple times. It’s nice. I could tell them to help them with a tiebreaker, or a doubles rotation.”
Mosteller employed a new teaching tool this year that has been supported by the US Tennis Association for new players. It’s another step to help lift the program.
“With our beginners, we added Green Dot to our repertoire,” Mosteller said. “It bounces lower. It slows down the game. We use it before we throw them in with the yellow ball. It’s a new system the US is adopting. It’s giving us a little more success with the beginners than we’ve had. Hopefully it’ll help us when they’re four years in.”