At first, the men didn’t take her that seriously on the other side of the net.
Then, once she showed off her game, she had them on the ropes.
This past spring, Seymour’s Karen Dringenburg — a freshman — competed on the men’s tennis team at Franklin College.
Story continues below gallery
Due to a pair of injuries, and low numbers, Grizzlies men’s and women’s coach Rusty Hughes asked Dringenburg and former Columbus North standout Melissa Sanders, a senior, if they wanted to compete. Chelsea Howell, a Franklin County native, also joined the team.
“I played with the men’s team because they were short on players, and if anyone were to get hurt they would not have enough players for every spot,” Dringenburg said. “I also chose to play with them because my doubles partner from this fall (Sanders) also was playing with them, and we were allowed to play doubles together for their team.”
At first, the opposing men’s team gave the women a hard time.
“Honestly, the opposing teams gave us a lot of hassle on and off the court during and after the match,” Dringenburg said. “Our first couple matches Melissa and I played we were given a lot of hassle by those teams, but the last couple teams we played were a lot more calm and respected losing to a girl.”
Dringenburg finished 4-1 in doubles and 4-0 for doubles play on the season with the men.
She said that having Sanders on the team helped her make the decision to join the men.
“Having Melissa there to practice with everyday during the spring season made a huge difference and definitely developed a best friend that will be back to watch some of our matches this next fall and spring,” Dringenburg said.
“Playing with the men’s team was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had,” Dringenburg said. “I loved the competition and speed of the game. The biggest difference was the speed, aggression at the net and having to play stronger mentally.”
She said that her game evolved over the course of the spring.
“My game has definitely gotten a lot quicker and allowed me to hit harder but has also allowed me to learn shot placement and the mental attitude of thinking two or three steps ahead,” Dringenburg said.
Typically, the women’s team goes through light workouts in the spring as they prepare for the fall schedule.
The women’s squad returns to the courts Aug. 19.
The Grizzlies reached the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship match of the postseason tournament in 2015.
This past fall, Dringenburg helped the Grizzles finish with a 14-2 record this fall, second in the HCAC with a 7-1 record.
Dringenburg also won all 15 singles matches this fall, including a 7-0 mark in HCAC action while earning conference Freshman of the Year honors.
“We have high expectations for our sophomore year. We lost 4 varsity players, but we also have 4 returning varsity players and many people ready to step up in the line up,” Dringenburg said.
Would she play with the men’s team again?
Absolutely, she said.
“I just love the atmosphere that is so much more relaxed than women’s tennis,” Dringenburg said. “Playing in their lineup has improved my game tremendously, and I thoroughly enjoy getting to play with a lot faster pace in both singles and doubles.”