James Monroe girls tennis coach Robyn Castles repeatedly requested that Fredericksburg-area tennis aficionado Bob Calloway join her staff.
Calloway always resisted the urge to return to the Yellow Jackets even though he’s in the school’s athletic hall of fame after leading the boys to three state titles during a 31-year run that ended in 2002.
Calloway was content as the Massad YMCA tennis director before he retired two years ago and was only giving occasional lessons and stringing rackets.
But this season Castle was in desperate need of an assistant. Her daughter was away at school in California and she needed to spend some time on the West Coast.
She turned to Calloway again, and this time he didn’t resist.
Calloway’s presence with the Yellow Jackets has paid off. JM is preparing for the Class 3 team state championships Saturday against Western Albemarle at 1 p.m. at Hunting Hills Country Club in Roanoke.
The doubles team of Haley Caspersen and Winny Hall will compete in the state semifinals today at 11 a.m. against York’s Natasha Novak and Cassie Watts.
“I am so thankful that Bob Calloway is a part of our program this year,” said Caspersen, who fell in the singles state semifinals to Novak on Thursday. “Robyn Castles is an amazing coach and Bob is just as amazing. He knows what these teams are like at the hardest levels and that’s been really beneficial to us.”
The James Monroe boys are also vying for a state championship on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets will face Western Albemarle at 11 a.m.
Adam Payne dropped his state semifinal singles match to R.J. Novak of York, 6–3, 6–2 on Thursday. Payne and Noah Adams will face Novak and Aryan Prabhudesai in the doubles semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Castles expects the JM girls, who fell in the state title match to Cave Spring last season, will have their hands full with Western Albemarle.
However, she said JM is better prepared to battle through heat because of an intense offseason regiment.
She also said the Yellow Jackets are deeper this season. They’ve been bolstered by the additions of Fredericksburg Academy transfer Kelsey Dupree and freshman Bella McDermott.
Still, they have a tall task to confront on Saturday.
“They are a strong team,” Castles said of the Warriors. “That area of the state has a lot of good tennis over there … We here in Fredericksburg don’t have all that junior tennis going on. They’re a deep team at all positions … I think we can do it but it’s going to be a tough one.”
Calloway will be on hand providing inspiration.
Castles noted that Calloway writes each player a text message every day with a quote of the day. His even-keeled demeanor has helped the girls’ individual games blossom. Castles said he’s always early, always cheerful and willing to go the extra mile.
Calloway said he knew Caspersen and Winny Hall from interactions at the YMCA but has enjoyed getting to know the other players, as well.
“I’ve enjoyed it very much,” Calloway said. “I’ve enjoyed watching them improve because most of them are underclassmen.”
Caspersen is a senior and is set to attend Division III Colorado College where she’ll continue her career. But first she’s hopeful the Yellow Jackets can make amends for their 2018 defeat to Cave Spring. The Yellow Jackets picked up one singles win in that contest, and Hall and Carson Butler took their opponents to three sets.
“It definitely made us want a state ring more,” Caspersen said of falling short last spring. “It really opened our eyes to how hard the competition gets at the higher levels and how hard we have to work to get back there.”