When talking about experience, Columbus East girls tennis coach Matt Malinsky believes the time spent on the court makes a bigger difference in performance than a player’s actual age.

“The earlier you start, the more reps you can get, the better you can be at a younger age,” Malinsky said.

East junior Megna Chari, who picked up her first racket at 6 years old, is living proof of that. She took over the No. 1 singles spot as a freshman two years ago and continues to be one of the most consistent players for the Olympians.

Chari started the season on a high note Friday by winning 6-0, 6-1 against Hallee Miller on the way to helping East beat Brown County 5-0. The Olympians are going to need another strong performance out her today when they host Columbus North. Chari will be facing off against North’s No. 1 singles player, Yijaing Zhao

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Part of what helps Chari stay so consistent with her game is that the high school tennis season isn’t the only time she plays. Chari is a year-round tennis player. She participates in clinics and private lessons at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club during the offseason and summer months.

“I think it helps so that I’m not rusty when the season starts, and then I’m just like ready to go,” Chari said. “I think I do want to improve on my strength and consistency, as always.”

Malinsky said tennis is a little different than most other sports, where having a smaller build like Chari could hurt you. Having good shot technique and knowing how to use the racket well is more important than an athletes size, and Chari has put in the work to handle the racket.

The hours Chari spent practicing on the court allowed her to lead East to its first Hoosier Hills Conference title since 1982 last season. Her goal this year is to help the Olympians win back-to-back conference titles.

Chari had to get used to the concept of playing on a team when she first joined the squad as a freshman. Tennis can often time be viewed as just an individual sport, and that’s how she viewed it before reaching high school. Now Chari has gone from being a freshman trying to get a vibe of the team to a co-captain alongside senior teammate Madelyn Rhodes.

“I hadn’t really played a team sport before that because tennis is kind of individual,” Chari said. “Now this year, everything is about team. I think that’s the big difference.”

If you go

What: Columbus East vs. Columbus North girls tennis

When: 4:30 p.m. today

Where: Columbus East High School

Admission: Free

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.