The Hays High School girls’ tennis team felt like it was competing against two opponents Thursday.
In addition to stronger competition than they faced in their first tournament — a win in Cimarron — the Indians had to battle the wind as well.
“The wind is almost another player playing against you,” the Indians’ Brooke Forinash said. “You have to try and overcompensate, and when the wind is at your back, I have to learn to be under control.”
“The wind is just very harsh,” Sarah Wyse added. “It’s kind of hard for me to read the ball.”
Hays High coach Mason Hickel said the gusts of wind served as an “equalizer,” throughout the day.
The Indians finished second behind Victoria in the tournament played at HHS and the city courts on a blustery Tuesday. A gusty wind, even by Hays’ standards, blew the length of the Hays High courts.
Shots that looked destined to land beyond the end line dropped sharply with some help from the wind, while weaker shots on the other side of the court got blown into the net.
Hickel, a first-year coach who was hired just a more than a week before the season started, missed the Indians’ win in Cimarron to attend an out-of-state wedding, but said it seemed like Tuesday’s competition was a little stronger than the opener.
“I didn’t really get to see the competition, but from the results there and the results here, yes, I’d say its stiffer,” Hickel said.
After a 6-4 loss to Russell’s Taelyr Blehm to open the day, Forinash finished 2-2 at No. 1 singles and placed third. She lost to the eventual No. 1 singles winner, Victoria’s Bailey Hobbs, in her third match. Both of Forinash’s wins ended 6-0.
After breezing through the first tournament, the Hays High No. 1 singles player used Thursday’s competition as a wake-up call.
“It’s always good, you know what I mean, to get snapped back into reality like this,” Forinash said. “I gotta fight for everything.”
Wyse also placed third, going 2-1 at No. 2 singles. Her only loss came to Victoria’s Hannah Radke by a 6-2 score.
The Indians were stronger in doubles play. Sylina Zhang & Joslyn Dinkel went 2-1 and took second in No. 1 doubles. The duo’s only defeat came at the hands of the eventual winners from Victoria. Zhang and Dinkel closed out the afternoon with a pair of 6-1 wins.
Hays High’s top performers were Gabby Taliafarro & Brianna Forinash who went 3-0 and won No. 2 doubles. The pairing topped Norton and Russell teams by matching 6-0 scores but needed a little more time to get past Victoria, 7-5.
Hickel hasn’t been around the Indians’ team for very long, but they’ve already managed to impress a coach who plans on stressing physical conditioning.
“They’re hard workers,” the coach said. “I’ve been pushing them to the limit this season. I don’t know how hard they were pushed in conditioning in the past, but I told them we’re going to be the most conditioned team out there.”
While Hickel said the team has already made strides in terms of fitness, there’s more work to be done, solidifying some of the game’s basic skills.
“I’m not expecting them to come out and hit winners or hit perfect ground strokes, but fundamentals right now (is where we need the most work,)” Hickel said.
The team will look to showcase its improvement in its third tournament Tuesday in Great Bend.