Carly Bontke and Stealey Crousen have played tennis together since they were young kids in the Junior Tennis program, so teaming up for girl’s doubles this spring seemed like a good idea.
The long-time friends not only qualified for state, but they won their first match and moved on to the semifinals, where they lost to the eventual state champions.
“We are really good friends off the court,” Stealey said. “And we had been waiting for an opportunity to play together.”
Although, Carly generally prefers singles, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pair up with Stealey, and she said doubles does have its advantages.
“It’s less running around the court, and you always have someone to pick you up when you are down,” she said. “She hits the ball more flat than I do. I tend to roll it. We have opposite strengths, so they work together. We’ve played together a lot, and we are friends. We know what each other is going to do.”
Both of the girls went to state last year as sophomores. Carly went in girl’s singles, and Stealey went in girl’s doubles with a different partner.
They said that last year’s experiences gave them some insight into what to expect this year.
“We had a little bit more confidence this year,” Stealey said. “We were all so nervous going into state last year. This year we knew what we were doing. We had been there.”
Carly said the atmosphere at state also was different this year. Last year, COVID was still a concern, and there was less of an audience.
“This year, it was more of a community,” she said. “A lot of our team came and supported us. We have a lot of friends on other teams. It made the experience more fun, and when we have more fun we play better.”
Stealey said Carly has a knack for keeping the atmosphere light and fun, which keeps the pressure off.
“She’s always about having fun,” Stealey said. “There’s never a moment she isn’t lightening the situation – that helps with nerves.”
Carly also is great to have behind you as insurance, Stealey said.
“She gets to everything all the time,” she said. “She’s like the Energizer bunny. I know she’s there to help me out if I do mess up. She knows me so well. We can read each other in the tense moments.”
Last year, the girls both lost in the first round at state. This year they advanced to the semifinals and won medals. Next year, they expect to take another step.
“I think if we had won a few more key points, we could have won,” Carly said. “But the other team was really good. Next year, I really want to win first. I’m going to practice all summer and be ready to do my best.”
“Regardless of results, we all know that if we go out and do our best, it’s an accomplishment,” she said. “Being there in our semifinal match really showed us that we did belong. We had our opportunities this year. Next year, we just have to take them.”
By Candy Reagan