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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Girls Varsity Tennis Places Second in PVAC Tournament

From left to right: seniors Ava Gonzalez and Lila Lefevre-Iwata playing doubles at PVAC finals on October 26th 2023. The tennis team made it up to PVAC finals ultimately losing to Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (JDS). (Courtesy of Cheryl Tanski)

The Girls Varsity Tennis team returned for a new season this fall. Their goal? To snatch the Potomac Valley Athletics Conference (PVAC) banner from their competitors, including Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (JDS), who snagged the PVAC banner from them last year. 

Their season began in September, with their playoffs beginning Oct. 24 until Oct. 26. The girls placed second overall, losing to JDS in the finals on Oct. 25. 

The team consisted of 18 students across the middle and upper school, as tennis is one of the few sports teams at WIS that is composed of this mix of students. Seniors Emma Randall, Lila Lefevre-Iwata and Ava Gonzalez were the three captains of the team this year. 

The captains helped lead the team along with their coach, upper school history, economics and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) teacher Guy Neal, who also coaches the Boys Varsity Tennis Team in the spring. 

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Neal played tennis in high school and coached at summer camps throughout both high school and college, but abandoned the sport once he began pursuing law. This year, he entered his fifth season coaching girls tennis and his sixth season coaching boys tennis at WIS.

His inspiration to coach also came from his passion for tennis. “My love of the game [comes] from watching it and playing it,” Neal said. “I wanted to try to be able to translate that into coaching students.” Neal’s goal for the girls this season was to win the PVAC tournament.

Scoring is multifaceted in PVAC tennis. The first singles players (the No. 1 ranked singles player on a team) from every school (Berman Hebrew Academy, the Field School and JDS) competed against each other in the playoffs, as did the second singles, first doubles, second doubles and the rest of the rankings. Each player competes for the singles and doubles top ranks. A win adds points to the team’s total. Whichever team has the highest total wins the tournament.  

Most of WIS’ players are veterans who play both in and outside of school. Randall, who plays third singles, played competitive tennis for 12 years before joining the team.

“I joined the WIS tennis team in hopes of finding more of a team environment and that’s what I found and I’ve really enjoyed that,” Randall said. 

Similarly, Gonzalez who is a doubles player also appreciates the opportunity to play with others. “I like doubles because I like playing with somebody,” she said. “I like to talk during games because it helps with my nerves.” 

Sophomore Selena Said, who plays as a first doubles player, emphasizes how stress relieving tennis can be. “It helps me forget about everything that causes me stress, such as schoolwork,” she said. “When I’m playing, all I think about is pushing myself to the absolute limit of my strength and technique.”

WIS’ Girls Varsity Tennis team is a major force in the PVAC, with only JDS as the defending champions standing in their way of the title. Despite their success, they have rarely received recognition from the school and the student body, such as not being mentioned at the pep rally in the fall of 2022. The lack of attention and student support is something the team has faced year after year. 

“Nobody really knows about our games, and we are always saying, ‘Come to our games,’” Gonzalez said.

Aside from increasing recognition and winning the PVAC banner, the team and Neal had other aims for the season.

Neal hopes to instill a passion for sports and team-building in his players. “High school sports should be an opportunity to do something outside the classroom, to build a team spirit [and] to get some exercise at the same time,” Neal said. “It’s more [about] enjoying your time as a team together on the playing field.”

Additionally, he wishes that players enjoy tennis not only as a sport but as a break from school.  “At the end of the day, I hope the players get joy and satisfaction out of working together instead of being highly fixated on their grades or on the IB diploma,” Neal said.

Said also wants to see more team spirit. “I hope to see a strong team dynamic among the members, both those who are and aren’t playing in matches,” she said. “Part of why I joined the team is to enjoy the experience and learn from everything that happens both in practices and games.”

While team bonding is an important aim, Randall also wants to see more players, experimentation and risks on the court. “It’s fun seeing new players come onto the team,” Randall said. “I like seeing how people take risks. Either a specific shot or in general being more confident out on the court and taking more risks because that’s important.” 

Randall and Neal want WIS tennis to expand towards more state division games. “I’d like to see us win an out-of-division match,” Randall said. “I think that would be really big for us.”

The tennis team has been more active on social media this year, posting about upcoming games, lineups and results on their Instagram account, @wisgirlsvarsitytennis, something they plan on continuing for next year’s season. 

By Elektra Gea-Sereti 

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Elektra Gea-Sereti
Elektra Gea-Sereti, Opinions Editor
Hi my name is Elektra and I am a senior plus the Opinions editor. I have been at Dateline since 9th grade, and my opinion articles range from social media trends to movie reviews. While not being opinionated can be strenuous, I do write the occasional sports, features, and food article. Outside of Dateline, you can find me on the volleyball court, or debating people in Mock Trial. 

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