By Rubin E. Grant
Emma Karcher has had more free time than she’s accustomed to this spring.
For the past two years, Karcher has been busy in April competing for tennis state championships.
She won the Class 7A No. 1 singles title in 2019 after finishing as runner-up in 2018.
Last week, the Mountain Brook junior would have been looking to repeat and trying to help the Spartans claim their fourth consecutive Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 7A girls tennis state championship.
Instead she was at home, doing online school work and going to the Country Club of Birmingham for an hour each day during the week to keep her tennis skills sharp and, she said, “just to have something to do.”
Mountain Brook’s tennis season – along with all high school spring sports – came to a halt when schools were closed for the year earlier this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone was heartbroken about it,” Karcher said. “We were hoping to get four years in a row as state champs. I’m trying to have a good attitude about it, but it’s been difficult.
“I miss it so much. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I miss the team. I was excited about the season, just to get to see everybody. We had played a few matches and were doing really well.”
Mountain Brook won five of its first six matches, including an 8-1 victory against archrival Vestavia Hills. The Spartans’ only loss was a narrow 5-4 setback against powerful Baylor from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Karcher said she feels bad for the Spartans’ five seniors on the team. Two of those seniors were singles champions in 2019, Madison Jenkins at No. 3 and Liz Vandevelde at No. 4, and another, Charlotte Gillum, was a runner-up at No. 2. Vandevelde also teamed with Karcher to win No. 1 doubles last year.
May McInnis and Courtney Clark were the other two seniors on this year’s team.
Karcher had hopes of winning team state championships each of her four years on the varsity, but with the state tournament being canceled this year, she hopes her senior year in 2021 she will be able to make it three out of four.
“Next year will definitely be a challenge,” she said, “because we won’t have that many seniors. But we’ll see.”
Karcher also said she’ll have to see whether she wants to play in college after she graduates in 2021.
“I haven’t decided,” she said. “I’ll see how I’m feeling next year. I’ve gotten a few offers, but not any really good commitment.”
Karcher hopes to return to playing competitively this summer, competing in some USTA junior events.
“I’m just playing it by ear, waiting to see what happens,” she said.
Meanwhile, she’s still adjusting to all her free time this spring, including online school. “It’s hard to stay on track,” she said.
And then there’s the matter of her older brother Andrew being home from college.
“He’s been home for two months, crowding my personal space. I’m not used to it,” she said with a laugh. “We are close, though.”