Matt Malinsky is only in his second year as the Columbus East girls tennis coach, but now he finally gets to add a championship to his resume.
The Olympians wasted no time in putting away New Albany 5-0 to claim their first Hoosier Hills Conference championship since 1982.
“It’s really cool to feel like we are one of the better teams overall amongst the history of East,” Malinsky said. “Being able to win conference after all that time, it’s really satisfying, and it feels great.”
It also was a very special moment for East seniors Adycin Rager, Alaysha Pollert, Carolyn Travis and Kendall Gerken. Through all the frustration and rebuilding the team went through the past two seasons, their hard work finally paid off.
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Rager and Pollert are in a rare class in Olympians’ sports history by having achieved two HHC titles in two different sports during their high school career, with volleyball as the other.
“It’s so exciting right now, and my team helped out a lot throughout the year, and it is just great that we pulled through,” Pollert said.
Rager echoed the remarks.
“It feels so good,” Rager said. “Knowing we haven’t won this in 35 years is mind blowing. I was really nervous going into this because a lot was at stake and we had a chance to win this. When I was playing, I was thinking to myself, ‘I can do it, I’ll be fine.’ It’s very exciting to win, especially my senior year.”
East’s Megna Chari wasted no time in putting away Ashley Fulmer 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles. A few minutes later, Pollert claimed a 6-1, 6-1 victory against Sarah Van Isenberg at No. 3 singles. Rager sealed the match by topping Daisy Dukes 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2 singles.
With the championship already decided, both doubles matches went to third-set tiebreakers. At No. 2 doubles, Carolyn Travis and Maddy Rhodes lost the first set 6-1, but stormed back to win the second set 6-2 and finished the match winning the tiebreaker 10-3 against Megha Dhanapal and Emily Yellina.
The final match concluded at No. 1 doubles, where Gerken and Kathryn Hodzen claimed the first set 6-4, but lost the second set 7-5. They prevailed in the tiebreaker 10-4 against Noor Quershi and Londyn Tyler.
“It feels amazing, and we worked with Matt over the last two years to really improve the women’s tennis team, and tonight proves that we did just that,” Travis said. “He is always wanting us to improve, and he always has our best interest. He’s an inspiring coach.”
“To only winning a few matches two years ago to now being conference champions is great, and I am so proud of our team,” Gerken said. “(Malinsky) is … engaging and connects with us and helps each one of us out individually and is a great coach.”
The celebration, however, will be short lived. The Olympians have to prepare for sectional play, which begins Wednesday.
“We have to be ready again, so we have to regain the focus and be ready for the next one,” Pollert said.