Ty McCory says he will never forget the first time he played a tennis match at Franklin College.
The Grizzlies were opening their 2019 spring season at Cornell College in Iowa, and McCory was in the lineup at No. 3 doubles and No. 6 singles.
Most college tennis matches consist of three doubles and six singles, and many times, the players play both doubles and singles.
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The doubles matches are eight-game pro sets, and McCory, a Seymour High School graduate, managed to defeat his Cornell opponent 8-7 (5).
McCory said he had a 10-minute break after his doubles match, and then returned to the courts for his singles match, which he won in straight sets.
“It’s a lot,” he said. “If you have a long doubles match, you have a long day ahead of you.”
He said it was a three-hour bus trip to Cornell, and he was on the court for between four and five hours.
“The coach gave us the next day off,” he said.
McCory is one of three former Owls playing tennis at Franklin. Grace Otte and Madison Pifer are on the women’s team. All three players graduated from Seymour in 2018.
McCory originally planned to play basketball at Franklin, which competes at the NCAA Division III level for college sports.
“When I got to Franklin, I knew basketball wasn’t right for me, and I thought I would enjoy tennis a lot more,” he said.
McCory was short for college basketball as a freshman, standing 5-feet-7, but since has had a growth spurt, bringing him to 6-1.
“I think (growing) has helped me a bunch,” he said. “It has helped my serving, and serving is one of the biggest parts of my game. My senior year in high school, I took my serving to a whole other level. My serving varies. Usually on my first serve, I serve a jump serve and have top spin on it. Sometimes, I hit it flat.”
Sometimes, the Grizzlies play tougher competition.
“In the fall, we play some NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) teams,” McCory said. “They are a division higher than us, and we play them to prepare us for our main season in the spring.”
In the spring of 2019, McCory played mainly No. 3 singles and had a record of 3-5 and played one match at No. 1 doubles. Then he changed between No. 2 and No. 3 the rest of the season and was 4-4 overall.
Last fall, McCory posted a record of 4-3 in singles and was 5-2 in doubles.
He was off to a great start this spring, going 3-0 in singles and 3-0 in doubles, until all college athletics came to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wish we could have finished the season,” he said.
McCory said prematch warmups are vitally important.
“In college, you don’t know these people,” he said. “You want to see how good his backhand is and how strong his serve is and how he attacks at the net.”
McCory played No. 1 singles at Seymour his senior year.
“You have to attack and have a good mental game,” he said. “I really enjoy it. In high school, everybody usually has a good first singles. In college, you look down their roster and they have five or six good players.”
The women have their main season in the fall and play a few matches in the spring.
Otte and Pifer played together at No. 2 doubles in Franklin’s opening match of the fall 2018 season and helped defeat Oakland City.
Otte helped the Owls win sectional her junior and senior years, while Pifer was on the sectional-winning team her senior year.
Also on the court that day against Oakland City was another Seymour graduate, Karen Dringenburg, who won her matches at No. 1 doubles and No. 1 singles. Winning her match at No. 6 singles for Franklin that day was Tapagna Gauck Burgess, who was scheduled to coach the Seymour girls tennis team this spring until the season was called off.
Otte was in the starting lineup her freshman year in both singles and doubles throughout the fall. She was 5-4 in singles and 8-3 in doubles. She had a record of 6-2 in doubles in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference matches and earned all-HCAC honorable mention status.
Pifer also played singles that day and lost. She did not play any more doubles matches that fall and was 1-6 in singles matches.
For the fall and spring seasons combined, Otte had a record of 9-4 in doubles and 5-5 in singles.
Otte is hoping to get healthy so she can return to the courts this fall. She suffered a broken back last summer, but she says she doesn’t know how it happened. She was playing in Franklin’s opening autumn match when she was forced to stop playing because of the injury.
“I’m supposed to be back in the fall,” Otte said. “I prefer playing doubles in college. I like to play at the net, and I like quicker play.”
She said the biggest difference between high school and college tennis is the consistency of the opponents.
“The players are more consistent, and the points are longer,” she said.
Otte said having a strong serve and being able to place it is important.
“Our coaches served against us to get us ready for the kinds of serves we were going to see,” Otte said.
At Franklin, she said she enjoys the competition and the friends she has made.
“The coaches are really nice,” she said. “One of the coaches is an accountant who helps me out when I have questions about my accounting classes.”
Pifer said when she first enrolled at Franklin, she wasn’t planning on playing tennis.
“Then I talked to coach (Rusty) Hughes. I thought, ‘I’ll give it a shot,’ and I’ve loved it,” she said. “I’ve loved being on the team. Hughes is concerned about how we do academically.”
Pifer was 4-8 in doubles matches last fall. She played both singles and doubles against Alma College this spring and lost both matches.
Pifer said she was on the court for more than two hours in her singles match and on the court for an hour and a half in her doubles match.
“I prefer doubles. I like having a teammate. They keep me grounded,” she said. “I prefer to play back. I know I need to be aggressive when I come to the net.”
Pifer, a psychology major, said she particularly enjoys playing home matches.
“I like that everybody is very nice and it is more like a family than anything,” Pifer said of the environment. “A lot of parents come out to support us, and my teammates are nice.”