It’s been a winning year for sisters Sam and Paige Nosal. In April, the St. Clements girls helped their ringette team to the title at the Canadian Junior championships. And last week the Nosals beat players from 13 other schools to take the Waterloo County junior tennis championship.
“They rolled through the competition,” said coach Mark Carlin.
This is the first time the sisters have played tennis competitively. They started when they were about 12 years old, hitting the courts every summer while camping in Owen Sound. Last summer older sister Sam went to a tennis camp at Wilfrid Laurier University, and this spring they decided to join the high school tennis team.
Like other spring sports at Waterloo Region high schools, the tennis season is a short one: five weeks from start to finish. Carlin holds practices three or four times a week, where the Nosals honed their skills.
They admit they’re tougher on each other because they’re sisters. But while they might get frustrated with each other during practice, come tournament time they pull together.
Carlin warned them that they would be facing some stiff competition: many of the other schools have club players who compete on a regular basis.
“We knew we had to bring our game,” Paige said.
Their years of ringette may not have been a lot of help on the skill side, but it gave them an edge mentally. Their experience playing at the nationals taught them that getting behind doesn’t mean game-over, Sam said.
“If you get negative and get down on yourself because they get a point on you, you don’t play well,” she said. “You have to shake it off.”
Carlin noted that attitude was what helped them compete against teams with more skilled players.
“When the chips are down, when they have to win a point, they really focus,” he said.
Tournament play had to be modified somewhat to have time for teams from 14 schools to play 114 matches over the course of the day. Usually a team has to win two sets of six games; they played only one set and the first team to six wins took the match.
The Nosals played their best in the semi-final, against a strong Waterloo Collegiate team. Paige delivered a handful of aces and Sam kept the rallies going, keeping the WCI team off balance. After winning the semi-final, they took the final rather handily, 8-2.
There is no regional competition; WCSSAA is as far as juniors can advance, but they’re already thinking ahead to next year. Sam will be in Grade 11, too old for junior, but Carlin is thinking of having both girls play senior.
Carlin was just as delighted as the Nosals were; he’s been coaching tennis and badminton for 10 years, and this is the first time any of his teams have won a WCSSAA championship. The school finished ninth overall, on the strength of the Nosals’ play; the other competitors won a few games, but no matches.