ELKHART — They didn’t call it that, but the Elkhart Memorial girls tennis team compiled what can genuinely be described as a bucket list while preparing earlier this week for the Elkhart Regional girls tennis tournament.
Only this bucket list had nothing to do with things the Crimson Chargers want to do someday.
To the contrary, it had everything to do with things they want to avoid.
It was an idea conceived by coach Alex Holtz and carried out during a Memorial Day practice.
“He had all of us put all our negative thoughts into a big bucket, and then we put it in a shed,” sophomore No. 3 singles player Taylor Freedline said Wednesday, May 28, after the Chargers wrapped up the regional title with a 4-1 victory over Angola.
Holtz said he didn’t copy the concept from anybody in particular.
“It’s just something I thought of,” he said with a shrug, “but I’m sure somebody else has done it. On changeovers (during the matches), we just said, ’Remember those negative thoughts aren’t here. They’re locked in a shed. Just focus on the positive things.’”
“I think it definitely did help,” senior No. 1 doubles player Haley Stouder said. “When we’re out here, all we want to be thinking about is tennis.”
Stouder said her bucket list included “doubting myself on serves and letting my emotions get the better of me, because I’ve had problems with that in past years.”
“I really didn’t put much in there,” Freedline said with a smile. “I wasn’t really thinking negative thoughts. I just knew we had to go in with a positive attitude.”
It was Freedline’s 6-4, 6-3 win Tuesday that broke a 2-2 deadlock and gave Memorial a 3-2 semifinal victory over Fairfield, a day in front of the win over Angola.
Now the record-setting, unranked Chargers (17-0) face No. 22-rated Marion (16-3) in a Fort Wayne Concordia Semistate championship at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 31.
There will be two semistates occurring together at Concordia. Both winners will be among the eight teams to advance to the following weekend’s State Finals, to be contested at multiple Indianapolis area sites.
For Holtz and the Memorial program alike, just being in a semistate is a gigantic leap from anything they’d experienced before this year.
The Chargers had never won a sectional in girls tennis, let alone a regional. They’d also never compiled an unbeaten regular season or earned a conference crown, both things they’ve accomplished this spring.
Holtz, who previously coached the team from 2000 to 2004 before returning this year after a decade away, went 24-48 during his previous tenure.
"I’m very excited, because I can certainly remember those years we struggled, as well as a year that we made the sectional final against a (Northridge) team we beat during the regular season, only to lose,“ Holtz said. “Honestly, I replayed that memory a little bit (before the Chargers beat the Raiders in this year’s sectional final), but these girls didn’t let me linger on it too much.”
Instead, these girls just keep shattering barriers previously undented in Memorial tennis, while leaving the concern to their coach.
"I gotta be honest, at this point I’m concerned about everything,” Holtz, a longtime math instructor at Memorial, said with a laugh. “I’m concerned one of them is going to turn an ankle walking down the stairs at school. You name it. But this group has done very well with everything. I don’t need to worry a lot about this group, because they’re mature and they know what they need to do to be successful.”
And what they need to store in a shed locked away from that success.