Brookfield tennis off to best start in school history

McDONALD – Brookfield should be thankful they don’t field a soccer team.

The girls tennis team has reaped the benefits with sophomore Autumn Kirila and senior Ashley Kirila.

Before Ashley was a freshman at Brookfield High School, she knew she and her sister couldn’t get their kicks once they left junior high.

They both picked up their racquets and eventually dominated the courts around the area. This season, with a little help from their friends, the Warriors are undefeated. After Wednesday’s match in McDonald, Brookfield improved to 7-0.

“We started playing in eighth grade. We figured, why not?” Ashley said. “They didn’t have soccer, so we took up tennis. Who thought we’d be good at it?”

It’s a little harder to play tennis at Brookfield because the Warriors don’t have tennis courts for the high school team.

To compensate, Autumn and Ashley carefully chalked out a tennis court in their driveway in Hartford, with rope and chairs acting as a net. It’s one way the two Brookfield High School girls tennis players maintain their games.

Sometimes, it’s a 20-minute drive to the courts at Buhl Park in Hermitage, Pa.

From Brookfield, team practices are a 15-minute drive south to Harding Park in Hubbard for practice and home matches.

“It’s hard,” Ashley said. “Other girls are doing other activities. Hubbard is 15 minutes away from Brookfield, but for some girls it’s a lot farther away. My sister and I, we don’t live in Brookfield. It’s twice as far for us. Getting there was a problem. I offer rides to all the girls, but most of the girls drive. Not having a home court is not really a disadvantage, but we take advantage of it and practice and practice as much as we can.”

Practices can’t be right after school and, sometimes, adjustable, Brookfield coach Kevin Boyd said.

“I have to be more flexible,” he said. “Eight of the 11 girls are in the band. I have to practice away from the band. I understand that’s for a grade. That has to take priority.”

Meanwhile, practice has meant perfection, just as the Warriors showed Wednesday.

Both Kirilas secured victories in the first two singles matches, but the undefeated team mark hinged on freshman Alex Plyler getting the victory at third singles. She eventually did, improving to 6-1. Both Kirilas are 7-0.

The Warriors first doubles team is Leah Bayer and Ana Zarlinski, while Samantha Zigler and Kristie Zachar play second doubles.

This year, Brookfield has two doubles teams – something it didn’t have last year as it went 5-12. The Warriors had to forfeit every second doubles match because it only had five girls. This year, they have 11.

“A couple coaches said that’s pretty good when you’re giving up a match every game,” Boyd said. “I knew when we had 11 people come out, we wouldn’t have to deal with that anymore. Also, I knew a couple of the incoming kids had been playing a little bit, as opposed to some players I’ve had in the past that have never picked up a racquet before the first day of practice. It’s one of those sports, the more you learn earlier, the more you learn the skills, the better off you are.”

It’s better to have 11 people out for team, Autumn said.

“I’m really excited because we have a lot more players than we did last year,” she said. “We’re doing really good, a lot better than we have in a long time.”

Boyd, who is in his seventh season, is happy with the quick start.

“Every match, we get very consistent play,” he said. “I pretty much know what to expect with each match. This will be my first winning season. It’s a nice way to start a winning season.”

For Brookfield, it’s nice to know the Kirilas are using their feet on a tennis court, not on a soccer field.