Hanging with the older crowd: Cousins enjoy challenge in doubles
|Avery Meyer, 10, of Dixon hits an overhead return as her cousin, Carmen Dieken of Columbia, Mo., looks on from the baseline during the 22nd annual Emma Hubbs Tennis Classic on Monday in Dixon. The cousins took second place in the 13-and- under doubles division. (Alex T. Paschalfirstname.lastname@example.org)|
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DIXON – Avery Meyer wasn’t about to miss out on the 22nd annual Emma Hubbs Tennis Classic, just because no teams signed up in her age group.
“Avery wasn’t about to let them cancel it,” the 10-year-old’s mother, Lori, said while her daughter played Monday in the 13-and-under tournament at the Emma Hubbs Tennis Center in Dixon. “She was gonna play.”
Truth be told, Meyer was excited that she got to play with the big girls. Not to mention spend some quality time with her 11-year-old cousin, Carmen Dieken, who was visiting from Columbus, Mo., and staying with grandma.
Mom, dad, and grandma and grandpa watched the cousins give the older girls fits. They took second with seven points. But winning isn’t what the annual event is all about.
“I don’t care what place we get,” Dieken said. “I just care that it’s fun.”
Dieken took part in the tournament for the first time, whereas Meyer was taking her second crack at it. She played in the 14-and-under doubles tourney last year.
“I like the challenge,” said Meyer.
“It was kind of hard being against someone who’s not your age, but it was also very competitive,” Dieken said. “It was a great challenge, and Avery helped me.”
“Avery always wants to play against the boys and the older kids, because they hit it hard and low, like she does,” Lori Meyer said while Avery rhythmically rocked before cutting loose a vicious serve.
As for Dieken, she’ll toss the ball as many times as it takes before serving, waiting for just the right one. She took her first lessons from Hubbs and her longtime staff during last summer’s visit.
Meyer started at age 4, when her brother, Ian, was playing in the tourney. Her parents figured, since she was there she might as well play in the tiny tots division.
She took to it like a fish to water and has been close with Kimi Wegner, who’s worked with Hubbs for about 10 years, ever since. The family’s taken a picture of them together every year, sort of a different take on the conventional yearly line on the wall to keep track of a youngster’s growth.
“She’s almost as tall as Kimi now,” Lori Meyer says with a laugh.
Lynn Smith has been working with Hubbs about just as long as Wegner, who is the head women’s tennis coach at Monmouth College and holds the school’s single-season record for doubles victories. They were both state qualifiers for Dixon, Wegner three times and Smith twice. They relish the chance to help Hubbs develop future standouts.
“This is such a nice community,” said Smith, who teaches middle-school science in Milwaukee, but comes home every summer to teach lessons and help with the tourney. “Everybody comes back.”
Audrey Melton, 12, and Anna Ivarson, 13, won the 13U doubles tourney title with 11 points. They were a portrait of communication, but that didn’t come without practice. They rehearsed together for the event twice at Kilgour Park.
“We couldn’t talk unless we said, ‘Mine or switch,’” Ivarson said.
That little trick, coupled with Hubbs and her staff’s patient tutelage, has helped Melton’s game take off. She won the Week 7 Most Improved Player of the Week award.
“I’m serving a lot better now,” she said.
“She’s hitting a mean cross-court forehand out there, too,” Hubbs added.
The charm of the event, however, was kids laughing together between games.
“We’d say, ‘Good job or that was like the best hit ever,’” Meyer said.
“And we were making fun of each other saying, ‘What’s the score?’” Dieken said. “It was so hot.”
No matter where they finished, Meyer and Dieken were going to get their favorite award – a dip in the pool back at the Meyer family farm in Harmon.
“Oh yeah,” Meyer said. “We’re very excited.”
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