Sometimes it’s good to switch things up a bit. Coach Mike Carver saw a need for that with his Southold/Greenport girls tennis team, so about five minutes before his players lined up on the court Thursday for the prematch introductions with Ross, he had quite a surprise for them.
The big change was having his top singles player, Nyla Olsen, exchange places in the lineup with one of his first doubles players, Camille Ramone.
“I wasn’t expecting him to switch things up that much, first doubles to first singles,” said Ramone.
What was Ramone’s reaction to that bit of news?
“Well, the first thing I said is that I feel like I’m gonna throw up,” she said. “A little panic.”
As Carver explained, the reason for the switch was twofold: It gave Olsen a fun day, a break from the pressure of first singles, and it gave him a look at possible options he may have down the road, including the upcoming Suffolk County Division IV Individual Tournament that will start Oct. 14 at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
For the first time in six years, Southold began this season with a first singles player not named Natalie Kopala. She graduated. That left open the No. 1 singles slot that Olsen has filled.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Olsen said. “It’s a little stressful.”
The junior went 3-6 before Thursday, the first match this season in which she didn’t play first singles.
It can be a grind and mentally taxing facing the opposing team’s best player every match.
“Playing first singles in high school can be a tough road,” Carver said. “You’re always playing the best of the other team. It’s going to be a battle. Every school has always got one really good tennis player.”
“And sometimes first singles can be a lonely place,” he continued. “So, she needed a nice little recharge on the battery and you can see it right here. She’s having a lot of fun out there.”
Carver did issue a caveat to Olsen: “You got to win, too.”
Olsen obliged, teaming up with senior Kaitlyn Duffy for a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Lila McGlynn and Kieran O’Brien. It was Southold’s only team point in its 6-1 loss at Southold High School.
“I was excited because I love playing doubles,” said Olsen, who was a freshman doubles player. “Mentally it’s a lot easier. I had a lot of fun.”
Ramone, meanwhile, had her hands full against fellow senior Emmy Winter, who put her powerful forehand to good use. Winter pounded away 20 winners and breezed to a 6-1, 6-0 victory in a match that was completed in a swift 35 minutes.
Ramone’s previous singles experience in her four years on the team: none.
“I have played tennis for many years and this is the first time I’ve played anything close to first singles,” she said. “Yeah, it was very interesting. It was a different experience for me.”
Ramone had her moments with some fine shots in the match and she chuckled over three successive let serves she delivered in the fourth game of the second set. Winter’s quality was too much, though.
“It was a really good learning experience,” Ramone said. “I think it was a great opportunity.”
Ross improved to 10-1, 8-1 in League IV while Southold dropped to 7-4, 5-4.
Ross also picked up singles wins from three seventh-graders — Lola Dongin (6-0, 6-0 over Judy Anderson), Olivia Caruso (6-0, 6-0 over Reagan Treharne) and Alex Montorosta (6-2, 6-0 over Anne Hughes).
In doubles, Mia Frohlich and Valentina Sanchez downed Joanna Anderson and Olivia Misiukiewicz, 6-3, 6-2, and Melanie Chuya and Carolina Saunders were 6-2, 6-2 winners over Angelly Avila and Erin Hoyt.
Carver indicated he wasn’t overly concerned about the loss of Kopala because many of his players are evenly matched, giving the team depth. “I knew we were solid from top to bottom, and that’s really what our team is,” he said. “It really is a team. It really is.”
Carver said he thinks the shakeup was good for everyone. In regards to Olsen, he said, “She won’t be in doubles forever.”