R-MA tennis squad keeps sunny outlook

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

FRONT ROYAL — Randolph-Macon Academy’s girls tennis team only has seven players this season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be successful.

The Yellow Jackets have limited experience on the squad, but players and coaches are optimistic about the season, which starts Friday, based on how things have gone in practice.

“They are eager to learn,” R-MA coach Jumanah Khader said. “They enjoy drills. … They’re picking it up very quickly, so I’m actually impressed with them. Even the beginners are learning so quickly that I think our team will have a chance to win some matches this year.”

The Yellow Jackets have seven players this year and the players are from three different countries: China, Nigeria and a Filipino-American.

R-MA is known for its diversity, and Khader said it’s nice having the different countries represented on the team. Khader said they all get along really well.

“They live together. They are in class together and they just work well together,” Khader said. “They’re here for the love of the sport. It’s nice hearing the different languages on the court.”

Last year was a rough one for Khader and the Yellow Jackets. They had 23 players come out for the squad, but very little experience and they struggled to a winless season.

The Yellow Jackets have three players returning from last year, including their No. 2 singles player Siqin Xie, who Khader said will probably play at No. 1 this season. Xie, a junior, is on the team for her third season.

Xie said she’s hoping the team can do much better this season.

“This year we do have new players, and I think everyone is working hard and trying get improvement,” Xie said. “Last year we weren’t doing that well, and I think this year everyone is really eager, excited. Everyone wants to win.”

Another of the returning players is Amy Wang, who played some at No. 4 and 5 singles last year.

The junior said she hopes to play in all the matches this season and even move up the ladder from where she played last season.

Wang said she tried different sports at R-MA, but tennis is the one she loved playing the most.

“Even though it’s more like individual [sport], we’re still a team,” Wang said. “Playing tennis is competitive and you use techniques — you have to think about it sometimes, and it’s fun.”

Another player the Yellow Jackets will be counting on is freshman Victoria Voellm. Voellm’s aunt, Anastasia, was a standout tennis player for the Yellow Jackets years ago, and Victoria Voellm said she worked with her aunt some during the summer.

“She’s helped me with my serve and my speed,” Victoria Voellm said.

Khader said Victoria Voellm’s game reminds her a lot of her aunt’s game.

“She has been a real asset to the team already, just watching her play and her enthusiasm and her speed and her agility,” Khader said. “So I’m looking for great things from her and she’s still young.”

One thing that shouldn’t be a problem for the Yellow Jackets this season is chemistry. The players said they all get along really well, and even took the ALS Association ice bucket challenge together.

“We take care of each other, and I think we’re getting just more and more to know each other,” Wang said. “I think by the end of the season we’re going to be all really, really close.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd