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Sugar House Journal

Spring season cancellation stuns Highland boys tennis team

Apr 29, 2020 11h55 ● By Josh Mc Fadden

The Highland boys tennis team got in one match this season before it was abruptly cancelled. (Photo courtesy of Jeanine Elsholz)

By Josh McFadden | [email protected]

It’s been quite a ride for the senior class on the Highland boys tennis team.

When Jeanine Elsholz took over the team as head coach, this year’s seniors were freshmen. The program had struggled for years, but Elsholz and the boys were dedicated and made consistent strides. Together, the team rose, becoming highly competitive through hard work and development.

Unfortunately, none of the seniors got to complete their four-year experience on the team.

The 2020 season wasn’t to be—cut well short after just a single match. The COVID-19 pandemic made sure that none of the seniors would finish their careers the way they wanted. Knowing this has been heartbreaking for Elsholz.  

She was on her way home from a match at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City when she got the news that school and all activities would be suspended for two weeks. Officials later extended that to May 1 and then for the rest of the academic year. The news is still shocking.

“I still can't even believe this is happening,” she said. “Six weeks ago, I could never have guessed that we would be in this position. At the time, I thought we would be out for maybe a month at most; it didn't even cross my mind that the season could be over. I thought we would at least be able to salvage a couple of weeks if nothing else. I don't think the reality of having no region or state tournament, no senior day, no year-end banquet has even hit me yet. It just does not seem real.”

Elsholz praises her seniors for their preparation and commitment. She considers the team to be a family and was eager to see what the boys were made of this season.

“Our senior leaders have been the hardest workers on the team over the past couple of years, and I was very excited to watch them play this season, win or lose,” she said. “They will be really hard to replace next year. The seniors that weren't on varsity have also played such a huge role in the success of our team. They have each added so much. I can't imagine our team without them. They will all be missed in a big way.”

Senior Isaac Brickey entered the season hoping to represent the school as the team’s No. 1 singles player at region and state. He is trying to cope with the situation, keeping the big picture in perspective. He’s also grateful for his experience as a Highland Ram.

“It's really frustrating that I spent so long working to get to my position on the team to be able to play against the top players in the state, and now I no longer have that opportunity,” Brickey said. “I think that it's very important to focus on the things that you can control, rather than mourn the things you can't. Every player is in the same situation. It's just disappointing this occurred during my senior season. I really enjoy the family atmosphere that the tennis team creates at Highland. The coaches are extremely dedicated to the players and push to make sure that every player feels included. I have loved the great competition and good sportsmanship, but most of all, I enjoyed playing the sport I love with my close friends.”

Fellow senior Jake Bauman, who was trying to overcome an injury when the season began, echoes Brickey’s comments. He understands the seriousness of COVID-19 but will miss the team dearly.

“This season’s cancellation has been a bummer,” he said. “Working really hard all summer, especially for the past three years, just to have it all cancelled, doesn’t seem fair. However, I know that is for the best, and we need to prevent this disease as much as we can. I’ll always be grateful for my coaches and the things they taught me and the relationships I’ve made. I love Highland tennis.”

Senior Thomas Wenzel, who rose from the junior varsity ranks to grab a spot at first doubles this year, knows that high school athletes all across the state are going through the same thing he and his teammates are experiencing.

“The main thing that has helped me deal with the disappointment is knowing that everyone is going through similar situations,” he said. “Everyone who played a spring sport lost their season, so it helps knowing we are all in this together.”

Elsholz said the most challenging aspect of this ordeal is that there wasn’t time to emotionally prepare for it. One day, everyone was thrilled about the prospects of a successful season, and the next day, it was abruptly over. There is so much uncertainty ahead.

“I completely understand the safeguards put in place and commend the schools for acting so quickly to protect all of our students, and we definitely wanted to do our part to help control the spread of the virus,” she said. “There is no question about that. At this point, it is just something we have to deal with, and the boys have actually been pretty incredible in handling it all. The question for me right now is, what will be the new normal? Will we have a fall season, a season next spring? There are so many unanswered questions right now about the state of high school sports. Only time will tell.”