Despite some injuries and weather, the Thomas Jefferson Raiders tennis program is off to a hot start in 2017. File photo

Jefferson girls tennis finding its stride despite early-season challenges

The Thomas Jefferson girls tennis team has certainly been tested in 2017.

Not only have the Raiders been batting injuries, the recently wet conditions have forced the Raiders, who have won five straight league titles, to prolong their start to the season. In fact, in the last 19 days, Jefferson has only played outdoors for six of them.

The difficult combination has Jefferson coach Andrew Buchan shaking up his lineup almost daily, but the obstacles haven’t thrown the Raiders off course. They’ve won all three of their season-opening matches, the toughest was Jefferson’s 5-0 win over the Auburn Trojans on March 20 at Auburn High School.

While the Raiders were pleased to get an early-season win, they were thrilled to just be able to play tennis on an actual court and not a gym wall.

“It was nice to actually get to play, and it’s not freezing, super windy,” Jefferson senior Makaylie Moore said. “It was nice to actually get quality warm-up time, and it was a good chance to get some consistency back. Us hitting in the upper gym for so long isn’t quite going to get it done.”

Quality tennis from No. 1 singles player Mia Rosa and No. 1 doubles duo of Moore and sophomore Ally Peterson did get it done for Jefferson, though.

The win over the Trojans was Rosa’s third match at the No. 1 singles position this season, and she put on a dominant performance against Auburn’s Makayla James, winning in straight sets 6-0, 6-0.

Prior to the season, Buchan approached Rosa about playing No. 1 singles. The first-year varsity player said she felt a great deal of pressure because of the importance the position holds.

“At first, I was a little bit nervous to take it on,” Rosa said. “I’ve been able to play a couple matches now, and the nerves are gone. Now, I’m just excited and can’t wait to play more.”

Peterson has made her return to the court after her third-place finish as a freshman in the state championships in 2016.

Injury is Buchan’s primary concern for Peterson.

A recent knee injury is limiting her mobility. Peterson can still compete, but the injury will require surgery at some point this season.

Despite the injury, Peterson and Moore won in dominant fashion in their first match as a doubles duo against Taylor Sloan and Stellsie Thackeray. The Jefferson pair won their match 6-0, 6-0 in less than an hour.

“This one felt great,” Peterson said. “It was really nice to get good warm-ups in a match. Our mindset was just to take every point as serious as we can and get in as much work, practice as we can.”

As for the injury, it didn’t seem to faze Peterson at all.

For shots like backhand smashes or can openers, shots that require significant movement, Moore did her best to take care of those shots so Peterson wouldn’t have to.

Of any player on the Raiders roster, Moore understands just how difficult, or impossible, knee injuries can make it for a player. A torn anterior cruciate ligament and shoulder forced Moore to miss her junior season.

“I just try to encourage her,” Moore said. “I think we all try to tell her to only do what she can handle and just not to overdo it.”

Peterson said she couldn’t ask for a better doubles partner.

Not only does Peterson get to learn from Jefferson’s most-experienced player, she has a partner who understands her struggles on the court from first-hand experience.

Their bond made them untouchable against the Trojans.

“[The knee] is definitely a challenge,” Peterson said. “Playing with Makaylie helped a lot because she was able to move. I’m just trying to manage it until I have the surgery.”

There’s no doubt the Raiders have seen their share of challenges this year.

But Buchan said he’s been tested in some way each year, and each season his teams find a way to place a league championship in the trophy case.

“We’re not worried about these little things,” Buchan said. “We’re focused on the overall picture of improving every day and put ourselves in a position to win a league title.”

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