Shaler tennis tandem playing beyond its years

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Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 6:00 PM


Julia Ehrenberger’s tennis career wasn’t born out of passion from watching the game growing up.

Far from it.

The Shaler Area sophomore grew to like the sport two years ago after attending a summer camp at the behest of her mother.

“I didn’t want to. My mom forced me to try out, and I had fun and decided to continue,” Ehrenberger said. “The game seemed to interest me. I wanted to learn more about the basic rules. That sparked my love for the game.”

Ehrenberger, who played softball as a child but doesn’t play any other sports now, has found a home with the tennis team. She has formed a strong No. 2 doubles tandem with fellow sophomore Zoe Smallwood.

Chemistry came immediately.

“Honestly, the first match we played went well together,” Ehrenberger said. “It didn’t take that long to get used to each other. That was good for us. We are good partners.”

After dropping a three-set match during Shaler’s 5-0 loss to Hampton last Wednesday, Smallwood and Ehrenberger have a 4-1 record. The Titans are 2-3, recording wins against Ambridge and Vincentian Academy.

Smallwood believes her and Ehrenberger work well together because they understand how the other plays.

“Julia and I know each other and have similar skill sets,” Smallwood said. “Neither one of us is good from the net, but we both hit well from the baseline.”

The Titans have 31 players between junior varsity and varsity, meaning competition was tough. Shaler coach Brian Duermeyer was pleased with how Smallwood and Ehrenberger earned their way onto the varsity team.

“They were slated to be junior varsity, but they are surging right now,” Duermeyer said. “There’s a hunger about them. They bought in.”

Smallwood, who has been playing for six years, said matching up against older players didn’t faze them.

“You have to act like you are in the same grade or have the same skills,” Smallwood said. “If you play hard enough, you can beat your opponent.”

Continuing to be a stout team will require more consistency.

“Serving is the biggest part of the game,” Ehrenberger said. “You can’t have a good match unless you serve well. If we don’t lose as many points from mistakes on double faults, we’ll be able to get farther than we have been.”

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