BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Cari Doutre – October 2, 2020
Athletic and quick on her feet, Erika Olsen thinks fast and can judge her opponents next move – a successful skill set that helped her dominate on the high school tennis court this year.
Tennis is a sport Olsen was destined to play.
In her junior year at Bear River High School, Olsen stepped onto the tennis court for the Lady Bears’ 2020 season in August and since then she has been unstoppable. Entering the Region 11 championship tournament this week, Olsen had a perfect season with an undefeated record on the tennis court.
So when it came time for the Region 11 girls’ tennis region championships at Green Canyon High School, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, it was no surprise that Olsen out-played and out-matched her competition in first singles. After all, she’s been doing it all season.
On Thursday, Oct. 1, Olsen faced her opponent in the first singles Region 11 championship match and came out victorious nabbing the region title.
It is what you do before the start of a season that makes a champion. In Olsen’s life, she takes tennis very seriously. She doesn’t just play in the fall during the high school girls’ tennis season, she commits to the sport throughout the year and it’s that dedication and hard work that has earned her success on the court.
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Olsen dabbled in other sports when she was younger but she didn’t really fall in love with any of those them. So when her mom, Brenda suggested she try tennis, it was worth a shot.
“It kind of just looked easy,” Olsen said with a laugh when describing her early memories of the sport. It was anything but easy when she picked up that tennis racket for the first time.
“It’s the hardest sport,” Olsen said. And not just the skill of it all. It’s the mental aspect that she finds most difficult about tennis.
“It’s all mental. You’re all alone and everything that happens is up to you,” she said.
But she stuck with it and the longer she did, the more she loved it and the better she became.
“When I started high school, I really started to take it seriously,” Erika recalled.
It was at that point that Erika, with the help of her parents and others behind her, that she took tennis to the next level. Erika started taking more and more private lessons and really amped up her practice schedule.
The next move was to play tennis at a higher competitive level in tournaments throughout Utah. The higher playing field and that level of competition made Erika better as a tennis player. Even though it didn’t always show on the scoresheet, that experience and playing time helped her progress as a player.
“It’s just totally different players,” Erika said while explaining her opponents at tournaments.
Along the way Erika has had plenty of help and support, including another local family known for their success on the tennis court.
Micah and Martine Rigby are the parents of five remarkable and talented tennis players. Their two oldest sons, Stefan and Keanu, were both state champions at Bear River High and the younger three are just as good.
The Rigby’s support and coaching is something Erika contributes a lot of her success on the tennis court to. They also expected bigger and better things for her – tournaments.
“That was just the expectation from the Rigbys that you do tournaments,” Erika said.
Erika embraced those expectations and thrived off it. Not that she needed the reminder.
“I wasn’t going to be mediocre,” Erika said when taking tennis to the next level.
She was also willing to put in the time and effort it takes to get there.
“Tennis takes so much time, all year. The off season is the biggest thing,” she said.
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On the high school court for Bear River High, Erika played varsity third singles her freshman year and last year, as a sophomore, she played varsity first singles. Only last year was a completely different experience compared to this year.
Erika was just short of making it the 4A state tournament.
“I choked so hard in region last year,” she said, citing the pressure she put on herself and her lack of match play experience.
But that’s all in the past and 2020 is a new season for Erika. Those months of practicing and match playing in the off-season is paying off on the court her junior year and the season isn’t over yet for Olsen or the Lady Bears.
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The 4A state tournament for girls’ tennis in Utah starts Friday, Oct. 9 and concludes on Oct. 10, at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.
The 2020 4A state tournament is where Erika will let “the racket do the talking.”
This year Erika also changed one very other thing - her mental game.
Positive thinking was one just one aspect she changed but also, “it’s usually just me trying to stay focused,” she said.
One’s mental game on the tennis court can be the difference between winning and losing, as said by one of tennis greatest female competitors.
“Tennis is mostly mental. You win or lose the match before you even go out there.” - Venus Williams