DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Her first high school tennis season has been a continual growing process for Center Grove freshman Isabella Schoolcraft.
“My first few matches I was playing really nervous because playing No. 1 singles I felt a lot of pressure,” Schoolcraft said. “It’s been a different atmosphere because I’m used to playing individually.
“Just being on a team has been a lot of fun, and we’ve been winning a lot of matches.”
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Schoolcraft has taken a few lumps from older, more experienced players but has also turned in some impressive victories as well. Entering this week’s sectional play at Center Grove, Schoolcraft owns a 13-8 record for the 17th-ranked Trojans.
“She came in a very talented tennis player, so where I see the most growth is emotionally,” Trojans coach Debby Burton said. “Having to play the toughest position, especially with a schedule like ours, she felt the pressure of ‘I’m supposed to be the best, so I should win.’ Then when you come out right off the bat and play (second-ranked) North Central and two days later we’re playing (No. 1) Carmel.
“That’s kind of like whoa. I think she has settled down into a role and accepted the fact she is going have tough matches every day and she is going to win some and lose some.”
Burton said the emphasis has been on Schoolcraft’s growth for the future.
“She’s very coachable,” Burton said. “She’s a smart girl, and she thinks through what you say. We’ve had some good conversations. She’s a really hard worker. So those are all great qualities to have in a young lady who is passionate about the sport that you coach.”
Burton said a goal for Schoolcraft is to be patiently aggressive.
“To not go for her shots too early in the point but to settle in and make her opponents hit some balls,” Burton said. “To wait and really look for that best opportunity, rather than rushing to be aggressive. That comes with maturity.”
For Schoolcraft, the biggest improvement she has made is handling pressure in tight matches.
“I didn’t used to deal with it very well,” she said. “I feel I’ve learned to play better and focus under pressure.”
Schoolcraft said it’s helped to talk with Burton and assistant coach Gary Robinson in between the court changes. That has been a calming influence.
“I’ve got to play a bunch of great players, and I feel like I’ve really gotten better,” Schoolcraft said.
Schoolcraft comes from a tennis family. Her brother Cameron played No. 2 singles for the Trojans as a senior last fall and is headed to play for Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Their father Steve also played at Center Grove and Lynn University.
“Cameron had a lot of success and the boys team has a lot of success,” Burton said. “She’s got to find her own niche and stop comparing herself to the older people she plays and to the family history.”
Schoolcraft started playing when she was 7 years old after tagging along to her brother’s matches.
“I got tired of watching so I decided to pick it up,” she said.
Schoolcraft said the team came into this season not knowing what to expect. Center Grove is seeking its first sectional title since 2011 as Greenwood won the past three sectional crowns with the help of Jackie and Jade Kawamoto, who graduated last year.
“As a team we’ve grown a lot,” Schoolcraft said. “We’re as good as we’ve been in awhile.”
Although she enjoys the team aspect, Schoolcraft also likes relying on herself during matches.
“It’s really cool you get to figure things out for yourself,” she said.
Age: Turns 16 on July 25
School: Center Grove.
Activities: Active in bible study and at Mt. Pleasant Christian Church.
Favorite class: English.
Favorite musician: Sam Smith, Ariana Grande
Favorite TV show: “Pretty Little Liars.”
Favorite vacation spot: Boca Raton, Florida, where her grandparents live.
Favorite way to relax: Listening to music.