After finishing as the Class B state runner-up last year, the Grand Island Central Catholic girls tennis team was poised to make a run for a state championship in 2020.
But that all changed, thanks to COVID-19. That resulted in canceling the entire spring season for teams across the state, including the Crusaders’ chances of maybe competing for the school’s fourth state title.
“It absolutely stinks and it’s horrible for the girls,” GICC coach James Lowry said. “I know how much work those girls have put into it and we know the kind of team we were going to have. As a coach, you don’t get those kind of chances every year.”
The Crusaders lost only two seniors off of last year’s team. They returned four seniors — Katie Maser, Avery Kalvoda, Courtney Toner and Elli Steenson — on this year’s teams.
Maser and Kalvoda were second at No. 1 doubles last season, while Toner was sixth at No. 2 singles. Steenson was an alternate who likely would have played on varsity somewhere.
“I feel bad for those seniors. These are kids that have shown tremendous leadership to the younger kids. Avery had put a lot of time in to be the player that she is and Katie is the ultimate competitor and a great athlete. They don’t get a chance and Courtney didn’t finish last year the way she wanted and she put a lot of time in,” Lowry said. “Elli more than likely would have played on varsity this year and she doesn’t get that chance.”
GICC also returned junior Ashlyn Kucera, who finished fourth at No. 1 singles.
“She was seeded in the top four at No. 1 singles and finished fourth as a sophomore at No. 1 singles,” Lowry said. “She’s a kid who has outstanding work ethic and I think she would have improved on her finish from last year.”
Lowry added there would have been a few other girls who would have battled for that final position on varsity.
Lowry said the players were upset that the season was over. The players and parents almost immediately went to the tennis courts to battle for the last time as a team.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, they (players) were so upset they went down and had a little tennis dual,” Lowry said. “The parents came and watched, but then the cops came and asked them to leave.”
The teams Lowry have coached get better and better as the year goes around. He said this year’s GICC squad would have done the same thing.
“We missed so many practices and that (the practices) is what I love. I think the kids get better from it. They work hard, have fun, goof around and enjoy it,” Lowry said. “They put tremendous effort in the practices and by the time the state tournament comes around, they are ready to play.”
Lowry said while he feels bad for the seniors, he hopes the players coming back don’t take being part of the team for granted because the season can be taken away like it was for this year’s team.
“I hope the girls who are coming back next year realize anything can happen,” Lowry said.