FORT WAYNE – Practice hasn’t always been fun for Canterbury senior Chelsea Himes.
Facing junior No. 1 singles player Leah Barnes’ missile-like shots doesn’t make for a pleasurable time on a tennis court, but it did prepare Himes for what’s coming once she gets into a match at No. 2 singles.
When Himes was transitioning from a No. 3 singles player to No. 2 a year ago, facing Barnes was not what she preferred to do but probably what she needed.
(No.) 3 singles is basically a lot of pushers, and 2 singles is a lot of hard hitters, Himes said. It is a huge transition, but I hit a lot with Leah last year when I became 2 singles. When the ball is hit at you at about 200 miles an hour, you have to learn. It definitely helped. I learned to hit harder and run down the balls faster.
It is like taking a practice test that is 10 times harder than the real test. I am hitting shots of hers that are just barely hitting the line ridiculously fast and being able to track down those balls and kind of expecting it definitely helps during a match because I can just run down a ball no matter where it is going, hopefully.
Himes is 23-2 as the No. 10 Cavaliers (18-1) face No. 2 Indianapolis North Central (20-2) in Saturday’s Concordia Semistate. The winner will advance to the state quarterfinals next Friday at Carmel.
Barnes (25-0) has been one of the top area girls tennis players the last three seasons and has advanced to the individual state finals each of the last two years.
By playing Leah in practice and facing a huge ball in practice, (Chelsea) has learned to be sort of a defensive specialist, Canterbury coach Jerry Gerig said. A couple of the last matches against Homestead and Carroll, she has faced big hitters, and she knows how to play a defensive style. By practicing with Leah, she gets ready for big hitters. She knows she doesn’t need to out-hit people. She can hit a nice, top-spin ball deep, and she will be in every match.
Himes went 16-10 as a sophomore at No. 3 singles as the Cavaliers lost to Indianapolis Cathedral 3-2 in the state semifinals. She has improved since, going 17-7 at No. 2 singles last year. She admitted to not being a year-round tennis player, but she spent more time getting ready before this season and has seen the extra work pay off.
Last year, I maybe lost my first six matches because I hadn’t touched a racket in forever, Himes said. It got better, but I learned a practice or two before the season helps a bit. This season went a lot better.
Gerig saw some of that improvement in a 6-0, 3-6, 7-5 win over Carroll’s Jenna Jackson in the Cavaliers’ 4-1 regional finals win Wednesday at Homestead.
She has been in a lot of three-set matches, and I have seen her just keep her cool and keep her composure, Gerig said. She was down 4-3 in the third set and really stuck to her game plan and didn’t change.