Winning a league title, whether it's done often or once in a blue moon, is an incredible experience that only the best athletes can lay claim to. It takes a unique combination of talent, hard work, perseverance and intelligence to defeat great players and make it through a postseason tournament to win a championship.
You can now add Waite tennis players Ashley Richards and Vanessa Skouroukos to that elite group.
Richards, a senior, received a bye and then defeated a player from Start, 7-5, 6-1 before ousting a Woodward player, 6-1, 6-3, to finish as a Toledo City League singles champion. She finished the regular season with a 13-0 record.
Skouroukos, a freshman, also received a bye and defeated a girl from Rogers, 6-1, 6-1, and a girl from Bowsher, 6-3, 7-5, in the finals. She finished with a 12-1 record, her only loss coming to a top player from Ada.
For both players to go a combined 25-1 is impressive in its own right. In addition, Richards is only in her second year playing the sport.
“She shows up on time and practices — you cannot get her off the tennis court,” Coach Cameron Neubert said. “We’d have tennis practice until 7 p.m. and she’d stay until 9 p.m. Last year, she just came out and showed up to play.
“It’s a surprise because she and Ashley played doubles last year and lost every singles match. She took a shot at singles and is 13-0 this year. But she got her shot and she's moving on to bigger and better things. She likes being out there by herself, being in control her own points instead of having to rely on someone else. Ashley is more conservative, she likes to play points out. She doesn’t care if she hits the ball 30 times, she does what is necessary to win.”
Coach Neubert credits Richards for her intelligence and how that helps her to make good decisions on the court.
“She’s closing on making the honor roll. I know she’s in good (academic) standing,” he said. She focuses on her homework after practice. Her intelligence really helps her out on the court.”
Skouroukos, on the other hand, has been playing tennis since she was a youth, while Neubert has been coaching her six years. But this was Skouroukos first shot at varsity competition, and now is considering play collegiately.
“This was her first year playing matches (at the varsity level),” he said. “Both girls did really well; Vanessa is more of a power player. I had them play each other earlier in the year and Vanessa won. They’ve both shown great improvement.”
Ashley Richards (left) and Vanessa Skouroukos won Toledo City League singles tennis championships. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)