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Hard work paying dividends for Sterling’s Ivarson

Talkin’ about practice

DIXON – Practice didn’t quite make perfect for Anna Ivarson, but for one day, she came pretty darn close at the Emma Hubbs Tennis Classic.

A sophomore at Sterling High School, Ivarson nearly ran the table in the 15U girls singles division Tuesday, winning 37 of a possible 40 games. Her nearest competitor in the six-player division won 24 games.

She was in “the zone,” as athletes are lucky to find themselves in once in a while.

“I just played tennis, and everything else seemed to disappear,” Ivarson said. “If I messed up, I just shook it off. It’s no big deal. Everyone messes up sometimes, and I just came back and won the next point.”

Helping Ivarson find that happy place was the namesake of the tournament, Hubbs. Ivarson is a regular at the weekday lessons given by Hubbs, and she’s been soaking up knowledge.

“I’ve been working on my serves this year with Emma,” Ivarson said, “and that day, I didn’t double-fault. I was really surprised with that, because my toss has always been a little off, but that day, it was perfect.

“On my shots, I controlled the point. I made my opponent run, so I was making them play defense instead of offense.”

Ivarson has been playing tennis for 7 years, since joining the Sterling Park District youth lesson group led by Carolyn Allen. Back then, the skirts the girls got to wear attracted her to the sport, but now, it’s all about the tennis.

Hubbs is the sixth instructor Ivarson has taken lessons from.

“I’ve learned something new from each coach,” Ivarson said. “Emma really focuses on the serve, and the technique of the shot.”

At Hubbs’ urging, Ivarson also competed in the 18U girls singles on Wednesday, to see how she matched up with older competition she’d likely see at some point in the high school season. She placed fifth among eight girls, with 20 games won.

Ivarson wrapped up Hubbs Classic play on Thursday by competing in a pair of doubles divisions. She teamed with Katelyn Grell to finish fourth among five teams in the 15U division with 16 games won.

Later, Ivarson and Sydney Ybarra took third among four teams in the 18U division with 13 games won.

As a freshman at Sterling a year ago, Ivarson was in the varsity tennis lineup, usually in the No. 3 or No. 4 spot for singles, and No. 3 for doubles. Against Dixon, an injury to teammate Grace Steinke put her in the lineup at No. 1 doubles with Allie Shank.

Ivarson and Shank lost a three-set match against the Dixon duo of Hayley Kent and Jessica VanOosten, who would eventually qualify for state. Kent, who will be a freshman at Illinois State this fall and is one of the assistants at this year’s Hubbs Classic, remembers that match.

“She was kind of a backboard,” said Kent of Ivarson, “and when you played her, it got kind of irritating.”

Ivarson figures to be one of stalwarts in the Sterling girls tennis team lineup this fall.

“I hope to be a big contributor to the Warriors,” Ivarson said. “We lost about four seniors, so we’ve got some spots to fill. Hopefully I can fill one of those spots.”

In the spring, Ivarson puts down her tennis racket long enough to be a member of Sterling track team. She was primarily a jumper for the Golden Warriors, but about midway through the season, at a JV meet in Rock Island, she was informed by track coach Tyler Gaumer she’d be giving the hurdles a try that day.

Ivarson had done the 100 highs and 300 lows in junior high, but she thought her hurdling days were behind her.

“That was the first day I went over a hurdle,” Ivarson said, “and I didn’t fall at all. I was pretty excited.”

Ivarson is unlikely to challenge for the No. 1 hurdler spot on the Sterling team, as long as state qualifier Ashleigh Tira is around, but is looking forward to see how much she can improve. She’s been practicing her hurdling this summer, along with a lot of tennis.

“I actually know the proper way to go over a hurdle now,” Ivarson said, “so I can be more aggressive.”

Ivarson file

School: Sterling

Class: Sophomore

Parents: Jeff and Kjersten Ivarson

FYI: Won 15U and placed fifth in 18U girls singles divisions at Hubbs Tennis Classic. ... Member of Sterling varsity tennis team. ... Also runs track for Golden Warriors.

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