Carroll High School’s Sydney Jackson named News-Sentinel.com 2018 Tennis Player of the Year
Except for maybe winning the state title, it’s hard to imagine Carroll’s Sydney Jackson could have had a better senior season. She led the Chargers to a No. 4 ranking in the state coaches poll, finished her season with a 25-3 record and established a new school mark with 94 career wins. She built a 94-15 career record, all at No. 1 singles, beating the mark of one of her idols, Rachel Sutton. She’s also being named News-Sentinel.com’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
But Jackson’s enjoyment this season wasn’t about all the titles and numbers, it was also about the people, the coaches, teammates and extended family members who were part of the process.
“I was definitely thankful for the girls I was with,” she said. “Our entire varsity families would travel to every place we played so we got really close and comfortable as the year went on.”
Besides playing four years at No. 1 singles, Jackson was also a three-year captain for the Chargers and this year was the only senior on the roster. There were plenty of times where coach Kyle Stoffel would ask what was going on only to find out Jackson had already addressed the issue.
After coming onto a squad with four seniors as a freshman, Jackson continued to grow as an individual and a player throughout her career. She may be leaving next year to play at Hope College in Michigan, but her impact on the Carroll program will likely last for years. Next year’s seniors will have her example imprinted on their own decisions.
Under her leadership, the Chargers became more than a team or a program and somewhat of a family, and family leaders leave legacies. Every coach dreams of building that kind of camaraderie, but it can’t be forced. Strong leaders have to know when to push, when to set the example and when to back off. In some ways in how she handled herself, Jackson was the big sister everyone looked up to and tried to emulate.
“You can do it differently and can create issues where there aren’t any,” Stoffel said.
Jackson never did that. With almost everyone returning from last year’s lineup that made it to the state finals, the Chargers had lots of expectations for this season, but they never seemed to feel the pressure from that. They were always having fun, comfortable and confident that they could just go play and not worry about what might happen. They enjoyed being with one another, even when their season ended in the semistate with a loss to No. 2 Indianapolis Cathedral.
“There were a couple of months around January where I played in a bunch of tournaments and things weren’t going too well,” Jackson said. “But then I got my confidence back and won other tournaments. I kind of went into this season after that tough stretch thinking this is my last season, I have nothing to lose, so just go have fun.”
Maybe her teammates picked her up?
“It was definitely nice, the bond with the girls because at the banquet I got a few cards from them with personal notes,” she said. “I thought, `OK, I was doing something right the last four years.’ It was weird because tennis for me is mostly about the individual aspect, and then when I got to high school, oh, this is a team now, and that kind of taught me how to work with others and be a team. I know of some other teams where it’s just the No. 1 singles player who is focused on and not the rest of the team. At Carroll, every single position in every match is important.”
And she’ll still be friends with all of her teammates 20, 25 years from now because of how this season went and how she handled it as captain.
Next year, she’ll be able to still have fun with tennis at Hope while concentrating on majoring in biomedical engineering.
“Carroll tennis will still have an impact on me for a long time,” Jackson said.
2018 News-Sentinel.com all-area team
Breann Barger, Norwell So, 19-4
Samantha Becker, Canterbury Sr., 12-7
Sydney Jackson, Carroll Sr., 25-3
Caroline Rahrig, Bishop Luers Jr., 20-1
Katelyn VanWyngarden, Carroll So., 27-1
Danielle Williams, Blackhawk Christian Sr., 16-5
Mia Toscos, Jr. and Lauren VanWyngarden, Jr., Carroll, 27-1
Payton Krahn, Jr. and Natalie Steingass, Sr., Homestead, 13-2
Katie Beier, Jr. and Maria Casiano, So., Carroll, 25-3