By Bryce McKinnis
The Bolin family is all in on Ada High School tennis.
Ava Bolin, 18, is the school’s star player in the No. 1 singles spot. She’s the veteran on a team that returns all six starters from last spring, which saw the Cougars tie for third at the 5A tennis championships. Ava placed sixth in top singles and has started all four years.
“She [Ava] is the leader for our team and an incredible tennis player,” Ada head coach Terry Swopes said.
Jessi Bolin, a 16-year old sophomore prodigy, is right behind Ava, lighting her own spark in the sport. She and teammate Lilly Cadenhead, then freshmen, placed fourth in No. 1 doubles at state.
“Jessi is an excellent player and an incredible student,” Swopes said. “She has a perfect 4.0 GPA and is at the top of her class.”
Parents Brandon and Stacy Bolin never played tennis before Ava picked up a racquet, yet their impact on the school’s tennis program can’t be overstated.
“My mom didn’t know anything about tennis before I started playing in elementary school,” Ava said. “She makes it to almost all of our tournaments and loves to help out in any way possible.”
“This will be Stacy’s sixth year being involved with varsity tennis,” Swopes said. “She is willing to do anything that needs to be done, and she is an amazing influence on our girls.”
Brandon and Stacy, determined to use their daughters’ love for the sport to facilitate a family experience, took tennis lessons to practice and provide feedback with Ava and Jessi.
“We wanted to understand the game better and be able to hit with the girls. We’ve really learned to love playing and watching tennis,” Stacy said.
“We have always been pretty tight knit, but tennis just adds to the things we can all do together. It also helps that we are all competitive” Ava said, “so we are always up to play against each other.
“Typically, it’s my dad and I versus Jessi and mom in some doubles”
Brandon has taken charge in giving Ana “debriefs” after her matches – “talking about how I did, and what I could fix,” she said.
“It definitely has helped keep me accountable and has taught me how to keep myself accountable,” Ava said. “It definitely challenges me to really think about how I played and figure out how to improve for future matches.”
“We hope to set an example for our kids in how to love and support those around you and to work hard toward your goals,” Stacy said. “Tennis takes sacrifice, hard work, and forces you to deal with challenges. Our daughters chose the sport because it was fun, they enjoyed the competition, and because of great tennis friends, but they have gained so much more.
“And we are so proud of them.”
Ava, who signed to play at McPherson College earlier this month, is looking to sport a medal this season in her last dance wearing Ada Cougars maroon. She was a state runner-up in No. 2 doubles as a sophomore but was just short of a medal last year.
“Getting feedback from my dad and from coach Swopes has taught me how to be my own coach out on the court, and think through the problems I may have in a match,” Bolin said. “It has helped me become a better player, for sure, and it definitely puts my goal for this year in reach.”
“The game of tennis has been fantastic for our family. We have so enjoyed watching the girls and their teams progress as individuals and as a team,” Stacy said.