Tennis team doubles in size

To accommodate increased interest in playing, athletic department adds JV team, second class period for tennis


Sofia Ramon

The girls tennis team prepares for practice. Last year, due to COVID, the team could only conduct practices after school or on Saturdays, instead of during class time. “COVID didn’t influence it—COVID wrecked it,” head coach Christopher Purkiss said.

Lanie Sepehri and Sofia Ramon

After five years of coaching tennis, in Christopher Purkiss’s eyes, the biggest change has been the influx of newcomers to the team.

“A couple years ago, we had a little bit under 20, probably 15,” he said. “Last year we had 32, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is too much.’ And this year we have over 50.”

Although Purkiss can’t pinpoint exactly why this surge is happening, he’s excited about it.

“I think it’s a great sport; it’s a sport you can play all your life, so I’m excited that students are learning and enjoying it,” Purkiss said. “I enjoy getting a whole different group of students from the ones that I teach. The dynamics are different, so whatever it is, I want to keep that going, ‘cause this is great.”

Despite the thrill of having a large team, it does raise some issues with ensuring everyone a chance to play and learn.

“For practice, I want everyone playing, moving, learning and getting a good workout and developing those skills,” Purkiss said. “Because of our limited courts, there’s only so many in a class, and then what ends up happening is people are just sitting and that’s not achieving our goals.”

I think it’s a great sport; it’s a sport you can play all your life, so I’m excited that students are learning and enjoying it.

— Christopher Purkiss

To prevent this scarcity of court time, Purkiss, with the help of Principal Nicole Griffith and athletic director Thomas Gammerdinger, created a second class period for the JV team. Purkiss is still figuring out the logistics of having such a large team, but what he does know is that he wants to provide as many opportunities as possible for the JV players to hone their skills. The team is no-cut, which lets him give more people the chance to do exactly that.

“We’ll be practicing in class, so it’s an opportunity to build skills, be a part of a team, have some time to play games and to be involved in a kind of tournament-style play,” Purkiss said. “My goal is really to develop a love for the sport and skill level so that in years to come, the JV players can play on varsity.”

Varsity tennis requires a bigger commitment than JV. While JV only plays two days a week, varsity plays four. In addition, varsity participates in more tournaments, including the district tournament and possibly bi-district and beyond.

“We’ll see how far we get this year. I think we have a good chance this year to do better than we’ve done,” Purkiss said.

While the JV players aren’t quite at varsity level, veteran players make sure to provide a support system for the newcomers. Senior Jewel New has been tennis captain since her sophomore year. She leads the other players in warm-ups, drills and plays both doubles and singles for the varsity team. Starting last year, however, she’s also helping out with JV practices.

Junior Charlotte Wunz and senior Charlotte Williams face off in practice. (Sofia Ramon)

“Having two teams has allowed the coaches to accept more players and by having two class periods this year, the coaches can work with players in smaller groups for more one-on-one improvement,” New said. “It also gives the players on JV something to work up to, which is exciting for everyone.”

The formation of two class periods is one of just a few changes from last year.

“Last year we couldn’t play during the tennis class period, only after school, and it was optional since not everyone was comfortable meeting in person,” New said. “This year we can practice both in class and after school, so we’ll get more playing hours in. Also, everyone can attend the practices, so there is a regained sense of camaraderie.”

The in-person year also comes with New’s favorite part of tennis: the tournaments.

“Watching other players in their matches and cheering them on is so much fun.” New said. “I love the energy of it all and then having the team cheer my doubles partner and I on when we’re playing. Some of my favorite memories are just traveling to matches and having fun hyping each other up on the way there.”