Stonewall’s Ball happy with decision to play tennis

Stonewall's Emily Ball returns the ball with a backhand during a recent practice at New Market's town park. The senior is starting her second season with the Generals and will be playing at one of the top two spots on the team this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG — Emily Ball has played a lot of different sports at Stonewall Jackson.

For her first two years of high school, Ball played volleyball, basketball and softball. However, last year Ball decided to give tennis a try and things couldn’t have went much better for her.

Elizabeth Mumaw played a big part in Ball’s decision to play tennis.

“She’s the one that really helped me with it and encouraged me to do it,” Ball said of her best friend. “And that’s why I decided to do it in the first place, and I’m glad I did because I developed a really strong love for it.”

Ball and Mumaw played doubles in the individual doubles postseason and were one game away from a state berth before falling in the Region 1A East semifinals to Rappahannock.

Mumaw graduated last June, but Ball is back for another season of tennis.

Ball said she went to some tennis camps at Bryce Resort when she was younger, but never really developed a passion for the game.

She said as the season went on last year she started to improve more and more. She said Mumaw played a big role in that success.

“She was a four-year player and her sister played before that, so she had a lot of experience with tennis,” Ball said. “She took lessons on the side and I went with her to some of those a couple times. She really encouraged me to join the team, to practice with her on the weekends. To just work as much as I could so that we could complement each other when we did doubles, and I think we did that really well.”

Ball started out the season at No. 5 singles, but as the season went on she continued to climb up the team ladder. By the end of the season she played at the No. 3 spot.

She said playing volleyball and basketball helped her with her tennis game, especially playing at the net. She said playing at the net and hitting volleys is her favorite part of the game and that it helps that she plays on the frontline in volleyball and is a post player in basketball.

The Generals advanced to the Region 1A East tournament quarterfinals as a team last year, falling to Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, 5-4. Mumaw also fell in the Region 1A East quarterfinals in individual singles.

However, Ball and Mumaw knocked off the top seeds in the individual doubles tournament. They had lost to the top seeds from Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in the team competition but avenged the loss to advance to the semifinals.

“Obviously, me and Elizabeth went further than expected when it came to doubles,” Ball said. “I think that was just because of our chemistry, to be honest, because we’ve been long-time friends. That was the biggest thing for us. We know how to talk each other up and tell each other what we need to work on and what we don’t. So that helped us go really far and it was so exciting being able to travel that much. I feel like I got a whole tour of Virginia.”

Ball and Mumaw were within a game of a state berth when the rain came, which moved the match indoors. Rappahannock then won the last three games to win the match.

Stonewall Jackson coach Bill Simmons said that if the match hadn’t been moved indoors he believes they would have won it.

“I tell you if we don’t go inside, they’re going to states,” Simmons said. “Because at that point (Ball) had only played one match indoors — everything changes. You get the nerves. You have time to think about we’re only one (game) away from going to states and things start happening and Elizabeth never got to serve again.”

Ball said she’s tried to play some and improve in the offseason to get ready for her senior year. She said she’d like to play at the No. 1 spot this season, but knows that will be a tough challenge.

She will have to battle Kat Good, who played at No. 2 singles last year, for the spot.

“I’m looking forward to it, because me and Kat Good are both pretty evenly matched and we both have skill sets in different areas,” Ball said. “She’s consistent, like so consistent that it’s crazy. And I’m more of a power player, I would say, especially when it comes at the net. We’ll probably be challenging each other every week, going back and forth. It will be fun. It will be exciting.”

Simmons said he’s looking forward to pairing Ball and Good together this season.

“We call Kat our backboard,” Simmons said. “Well if you got a backboard and a frontboard I’m hoping this is a good little combination here that we could see a lot of the same success, even though were missing that big hitter. We’re going to stay in every point because we got the perfect combination of players.”

Ball is one of three seniors, along with Good and Lacey Kagey, and said she believes the team can do really well this season.

“We have a lot of new players this year, which is exciting because they’re all underclassmen,” Ball said. “So we’re really trying to build them up for the future years to come. As far as me, Kat and Lacey, the three seniors, they have more experience but we’re all kind if working together to just improve the whole team as a whole. If we can build on anything we did last year that would be the goal.”

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