For The Tribune
Aurora Willman played No. 1 singles for the Trinity Lutheran tennis team the past two seasons, so she knew she was going to be facing a strong opponent every time she took the court.
“Whenever you play No. 1, you’re playing the best person on that team,” she said. “It’s not like you’re on the verge of beating No. 2 or No. 3. I’m a very consistent hitter. I’m always a little uneasy trying to hit winning shots, so I just volley with them and let them make the mistakes.”
Willman said warm-ups before matches were important to her successes.
“What I try to learn most is part of the serves,” she said. “If they do a hard serve, I need to take a couple steps back and just prepare myself mentally. Also, their forehands and backhands tell wherever they’re hitting, like if they’re hitting up at the net and trying to slam it. It helps me determine where I’m going to hit the ball at the girl.”
The senior said she likes playing along the baseline and tries to make her opponents run all over the courts to return her shots.
Willman said she spent a lot of practice time trying to improve her serving.
“The first three years I played, I always served long, I always bent my elbow,” she said. “But this year, coach (Mark) Voss really worked on making me getting my serve right and keeping my elbow straight and extend my arm. You don’t have to hit it at such a harsh angle. It’s more hitting it down.”
Willman played doubles her freshman season and No. 2 singles her sophomore year.
“I’ve enjoyed singles the most just because during a match, I like just to be able to know that I did all that I could, and I don’t have anybody else to blame for it. It’s my fault if I lose,” she said.
“Winning the first set is probably the most important thing about tennis because once you win that first set, you have the confidence in yourself that you can beat this girl in the second set, and most of all in high school tennis, you don’t want to play three sets. If you just keep at it, you’re going to win.”
In matches, Willman had to keep her mental game in check.
“Probably the hardest thing about tennis is not just being physically active during the match, your mental toughness is so important,” Willman said. “Your opponent can tell if you’re getting frustrated, and they’re going to use that to their advantage, and you’re just going to tear yourself down.”
Over the past four winters, Willman also competed with the bowling team.
“The thing I enjoyed about bowling the most was it didn’t involve the classes being separated,” she said. “It brought us together, a whole different group of people you usually wouldn’t be associated with. This year, we had a girls team and a boys team. I rotated between lead and anchor. My high game was 195.”
Before releasing the ball, Willman collected herself.
“The thing that helped me the most was to take a deep breath right before you go up there and just kind of clear your mind and don’t overthink it because when you overthink it, you tend to mess up,” Willman said.
“I just really liked being able to hang out with my friends. Gary and Brenda Snowden were the coaches, and they really didn’t focus about winning. It was more about having fun, and that is something I really liked.”
She is the third member of her family to bowl for Trinity, as her sister, Makala, and brother, Job, were members of the Cougars’ bowling team.
Name: Aurora Willman
School: Trinity Lutheran
Parents: Mark and Yvonne Willman
Siblings: Shannel, Adelea, Makala, Job
Sports: Bowling, four years; tennis, four years
Athletic highlights: In bowling, most valuable player award, Cougar Award. In tennis, most valuable player award.
Plans after high school: Attend Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts
Q: What’s it like attending TLHS?
A: “I love it just because you’re able to really get to know everyone in your class. I probably know 98 percent of the students here, and you won’t find that at Seymour or (Columbus) North.”
Q: Did you have a home-court advantage?
A: “I really enjoy the home matches just because all of the girls are able to come to the matches, so you really get the support of the entire team, where at away matches, some of the girls have a lot of homework or they are on JV and we don’t need that many players, and they don’t always go. Being at home, you get to really bond with the girls.”
Q: Did you like dual matches or tournaments better?
“I prefer the tournaments just because you know you’re going to be there for a while, and you might as well do your best, whereas at a regular match, you’re like, ‘OK, I don’t want to play today. Let’s just get this over with.’ But you’ve always got to try to be your best.”