Every time Elise Hartung would suit up for the Seymour Owls tennis team this past spring, there would always be eyes on her and an expectation that she could deliver in the three singles spot.
Pressure? No, Elise is steady and played relax. But there was always one pair of eyes watching Elise — maybe watching her more intently than most.
Those eyes were Julia Hartung’s, Elise’s younger sister. Julia was always impressed at how hard Elise could hit the ball.
Just this past week, Julia wasn’t afraid to admit, even though she was standing right next to her big sister, that the reason she got into tennis is because Elise plays.
Both Hartung sisters recently competed in the Columbus City Open in July, and both had success. Elise went 2-1 in her matches to place third overall, and Julia also went 2-1 to place second overall in her age group.
“It’s really beneficial because after the season you want to keep continuing the skills you built there,” Elise said. “I hadn’t gotten out all summer because I had camps and vacations and stuff, so I was really excited to play in the tournament.”
For Julia, going into sixth grade, this was the first tournament she competed in.
“It was fun,” she said. “It was my first tournament, so it was good to get second place.”
Julia has been playing tennis for three years now, and Elise, going into her junior year at Seymour High School, started playing tennis in sixth grade.
“I started playing tennis because there wasn’t a soccer team in the spring, so I was like ‘what about tennis?’ I stuck with it partly with my friends in middle school, but then I really started playing summer before freshman year and I really loved it then,” Elise said.
Elise has enjoyed a lot of success during her time at Seymour as well. In her freshman season, Hartung had a dominant two doubles record with Madalyn Baurle, and just this past spring, Hartung set the school record for most wins at three singles in a season.
She’s a two-time sectional champion, and after playing both doubles and singles, Hartung now has a favorite.
“I really enjoyed singles,” she said. “I thought it was really fun.”
Julia hasn’t played a whole lot of doubles quite yet, but so far, she enjoys being solo on the court, too.
“I mostly play singles a lot, and I enjoy hitting at the net,” Julia said.
Julia is a righty while Elise is a lefty, and Elise feels like there’s an advantage with her southpaw forehand.
“On the ad side, you can get this really great angle across that a lot of people don’t know about,” she explained. “It spins the other way, which screws with people because it goes into their body. So, it’s fun to see them miss it.”
Although the sisters had opportunities to grow their tennis games this summer, the fall is where their athletic focus starts to shift.
Julia plays volleyball and basketball, and Elise is a starting defender on the Owls’ soccer squad. Both are excited for their respective sports this fall, but when there’s an opening, the two will try to squeeze in a lesson at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club.
“Soccer is everyday except Sunday, but I’ll try to get to Tipton a couple times when I don’t have a soccer game,” Elise said.
When it comes to tennis, Elise is trying to work on getting to the net and getting a better approach shot, and she also wants to improve her second serve.
For Julia, a lot of her lessons consist of practicing serves and how to work the baseline.
Do the sisters have hit together? Not a whole lot. Elise even joked that when Julia was competing in the Columbus City Open, she didn’t go watch her play because “I was probably sleeping or something.”
It’s a busy time for both athletes, but when they got together earlier this week to discuss their tennis careers, both had smiles as they hit the ball back and forth.
Elise is definitely capable of hitting the ball a little too hard at Julia, but that’s what Julia is working toward. It’s what she admires most about watching her sister play outside the fence at the tennis courts — she wants to be able to return the ball with the same power and placement as her sister.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Elise said knowing Julia chose to play the sport because of her. “She can’t really hit very hard, but she can return a lot of shots, so it’s good to play with her.”