Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wristen: Setting the record straight on tennis

November 29, 2007

Occasionally in the process of producing a newspaper, mistakes make it into print.

We try to avoid this as much as possible. When a mistake occurs, however, it is important to come clean and set the record straight.

That's the purpose of this column.

It turns out I had my facts wrong in October when on two occasions I wrote that sophomore Amy Briggs became the first Lansing High girls tennis player in more than a decade to qualify for state.

Briggs is the first player to accomplish that feat in a few years, but it hasn't been a decade. In fact, not even close.

I know this now thanks to a tip from a newspaper sports copy editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette. That copy editor is Angie DiSalvo, and she's well-versed in Lansing tennis history. That's because she was a tennis state qualifier for LHS during the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

Prior to Briggs, DiSalvo was the most recent Lion to qualify for state.

DiSalvo, a 2003 LHS graduate and 2007 Drake University grad, e-mailed me a week after the state tournament to let me know that information, as well as to say how excited she was to have followed Briggs' success throughout the season.

During a phone conversation with DiSalvo a couple weeks later, I learned that Lansing sent girls to the Class 4A state tennis tournament every year during her high school days. Sarah Decker made it to state in 1999 and Sarah Milling qualified in 2000 before DiSalvo made it back-to-back years. Sharon McNitt was the coach during that time.

DiSalvo said the team had good chemistry and was well-coached.

"It just seemed like there were a lot of good players at the time," DiSalvo said. "Even the girls I played with, we had good challenges in practice."

DiSalvo was surrounded by numerous talented players during her career, including a lineup in 2002 that included Holly Gramkow, Stacy Sepulvado, Laura Hicks, Judith Waelde, Brooke Raasch, Lisa Wise and Amy Fousek.

The roster numbers dwindled by DiSalvo's senior season, a trend she attributed at least partially to more girls playing club soccer after LHS launched its program.

Interest in tennis rebounded in 2006, the second year that Rachel Elkins was in charge of the program. Elkins launched the summertime Match Point Tennis Academy and eventually started USTA Junior Team Tennis in Leavenworth and Lansing in 2007. The program now boasts a roster of more than 20 players, and Briggs became the first LHS girl to qualify for the Class 5A state tournament.

Elkins, a long-time tennis enthusiast and former college player, talked about establishing a winning tradition when she took over the program. She was ecstatic when I shared DiSalvo's information with her.

It's interesting to note that much of Lansing's current success mirrors its history. Practices are run in much the same way as when McNitt was in charge. A challenge ladder is established for players to battle for varsity spots. Fundamentals are emphasized. State qualifiers are created.

DiSalvo admits she doesn't play as much tennis these days. While attending Drake, a university in Des Moines, Iowa, she hit the courts a handful of times but had trouble finding people to play with. Last summer she accepted an internship as an agate clerk at the Des Moines Register before ultimately landing a job in Colorado Springs.

She has been in Colorado for barely a month now, but she likes the hours. She proofreads stories by night and spends her days finding her way around in the outdoor paradise that is her new home.

And every once in a while, she admits, she hops on the Internet and looks up stories about the LHS tennis team. Lately those stories have made her feel proud of her old program.

"I was extremely impressed with how well they did this season," DiSalvo said. "It's cool to read up on them now and keep track of the team. It sounds like they're doing a great job."

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