East Valley girls tennis coach Aaron Alteneder likens his senior doubles team of Tanya Phillips and Brandy Rowles to factory workers.
“I always feel when they walk on the court it’s bring a lunch box, set it down, go out and do business, finish lunch and go home,” he said.
It is an image which the two players themselves agree is accurate.
“We just go in, get the job done and win,” said Phillips.
For three years their job was beating Frontier League opponents. Over the course of their careers, the teammates compiled 25-1 league and 37-2 overall records.
The one loss, in the last match of their sophomore season, they say, was a fluke, the product of Brandy’s uncooperative undergarment.
Close friends since sixth grade, Phillips and Rowles are opposites in appearance, demeanor and playing style.
The shorter Phillips has red hair, is aggressive on the court, and is the quieter of the two in conversation. The taller, dark-haired Rowles is steady on the court and is more talkative.
In a match, however, they are of single purpose. So much so that opposing coaches wonder if they ever smile.
“I don’t smile much anyway,” said Rowles. “We want to win and we don’t goof around. The one time we did we lost.”
When one misses an easy shot, the other glares. But neither, they say, stays mad at the other for long.
Phillips always plays on the left side of the court and serves on the north court. Rowles plays on the right and serves on the south.
“It may have been how our matches worked out in the beginning,” said Rowles.
They have worked together for so long that, said Phillips, “We can’t switch now. We just know what shots we’re going to get.”
Added Brandy, “We don’t call it, either.”
The two could have been singles players, but didn’t like it. They joined forces as freshman and have been in doubles ever since.
What sets them apart is their consistency. They don’t make mistakes, said Alteneder. Offensively, Rowles will keep the ball in play from the baseline. Phillips will finish off a volley, either with her powerful serve or net play.
“They are like a setter and spiker in volleyball,” Alteneder said.
Although the pair have been the Frontier League’s top doubles combination, this will be the first year they try to qualify for state.
Qualifiers usually come from a team’s players who are eliminated from district singles play.
Neither Phillips nor Rowles is concerned.
“We’ve been playing together longer than anybody else and know exactly what to do,” said Phillips.
It will be their last hurrah together in tennis. Their paths may not cross again after Rowles becomes an airline flight attendant and Phillips pursues her dream of being a nature photographer in Africa.
When their era ends at East Valley, both have accomplished what they wanted.
“We wanted to go out our last year having the best record,” said Rowles.
“We had the best record the last two years and kept it,” said her partner.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo