With four regional appearances in the past four years, coach Jeff Siebert's Lady Wildcat netters had every reason to believe they could land back on the Richmond High School courts in late May of this year.

Boasting a probable lineup of six returning seniors from a 15-4 squad that narrowly fell to Blue River (3-2) in the 2019 regional, the ladies were prepared to take on all Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, sectional and regional opponents this spring.

Those upperclassmen were “dreaming and planning what they'd like to accomplish their final year,” according to Siebert.

“The reality is that these dreams will remain dreams,” said the coach. “The season's been canceled, with good reason. But nonetheless, having no season is a difficult pill to swallow. At some point, the players realize they will be going their separate ways and that friendships they've developed will not be quite the same. The competition is important to most of the players, but the social isolation seems to be the hardest problem to deal with.”

The group of seniors unable to fulfill court aspirations consisted of Lilli Stewart, Taylor McCreary, Maggie Brack, Alexis Ball, Kairee Hodapp and Erin Hesselbrock.

Stewart (57-13 career record) may be the “most dedicated player to play tennis at Franklin County High School,” per her coach. She joins Fran Fairfield as the only players to have unbeaten regular seasons at No. 1 singles for an undefeated team; this occurred during Stewart's sophomore year. 2020 would have been her fourth straight year at the top of the lineup and the senior believed it could have been the best from an individual and team standpoint. She will look to hold a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship at Xavier University.

McCreary (41-4 at doubles and No. 2 singles) had an optimistic view toward this year's postseason. Of singles play, she said “a player takes credit for wins and losses with no one to blame but themselves.” McCreary looks forward to a lifetime skill she learned on the tennis courts.

Brack (39-5 doubles/singles) was willing to help the team in any way she could, having experience on the singles and doubles courts. Siebert noted “she always gave her best and would have had a great season again this year.”

McCreary, Brack and Hesselbrock plan on attending Ball State University in the fall. Taylor intends on majoring in nursing and speech pathology and Brack wishes to enroll in the Miller College of Business with a major in marketing.

Ball (12-6) broke into the doubles lineup last year and has many fond memories, including the sectional title. She calls tennis her “happy place,” trying to explain the feeling of having all the hard work come together and the resulting happiness for the entire team. Coach called Ball an aggressive net player with determination; “she didn't let mistakes drag her down, allowing her to always be in the match.” Ball plans to attend college and major in business.

Hodapp (15-8) played doubles last spring, where she had advantages in height and athleticism. “Kairee expected the best from herself each match,”

Siebert remarked. “She possessed good ground strokes, and this could have been a great year for her with improvements she was developing.”

Hodapp plans to be an OB or neonatal nurse after attending the Good Samaritan College of Nursing.

Though a reserve player until this year, Hesselbrock was making positive strides toward joining the varsity ranks after an offseason of practicing. Erin was looking forward to playing one last season with her friends.

A pair of juniors should get another chance to shine in 2021. Allie Routh and Elise Klei both own varsity experience. Both expressed disappointment in not seeing what the senior-dominated team could do, but each echoed those girls are destined for success outside of high school. “They were a great group and we would have loved to have one more year to share with them,” Klei said of the seniors.

The girls all enjoyed the social aspects of team bonding, almost as much as the matches. This ranged from bus trips and sleepovers to ice cream treats and brownies provided by coach John Ingermann.

Filling out the roster this year were Katherine Apsley, Hailee and Regan Barker, Chloe Cowen, Macie Fohl, Emilee Hesselbrock, Kaylin Knapp, Paulina Martinez, Grace Roth and Kacie Williams.

“The girls who played tennis for the last three years at FC spent many hours taking lessons and preparing themselves to be the best they could be,” said Siebert. “It is especially unfortunate they couldn't play their final season with the work and potential success in their future.

“Congratulations to the team for what they've already accomplished and good luck to them in the future.”

Source: Coach Jeff Siebert