All Area Tennis

Alexa Brewster, Massaponax

She wasn’t exactly born with a tennis racquet, but Alexa Brewster certainly inherited an interest in the game.

The Massaponax High School senior’s father, Don, was a racquetball player who also dabbles in tennis, and an aunt played tennis at the U.S. Military Academy. Alexa recalls playing tennis as early as 4, and two of her younger brothers are currently members of Massaponax’s boys’ team.

“Fortunately, any time I want to hit, I can just drag one of my brothers out to the tennis court,” she said.

That work paid off last spring, when Brewster became the Panthers’ first-ever regional singles champion. She went 17–4 in the regular season, with two losses apiece to Colonial Forge’s Mikayla Cunney and Riverbend’s Kiersten Chang, both Class 6 players.

Now, she’s back and shooting for a return trip to the Class 5 state tournament—and she’d like to take her teammates, as well. The Panthers will open their 2019 season Wednesday in the Commonwealth District semifinals against the winner of Monday’s first-round match between Mountain View and Colonial Forge.

“She has tremendous athletic ability,” veteran Massaponax coach John Shinberger said of Brewster. “She’s a lefty, she’s fast as a gazelle, and she has really good ground strokes.”

Brewster joined the Panthers as a freshman, and “I knew she was probably better than anyone I had on the team at the time,” according to Shinberger. But she didn’t post an overall winning record until her junior season.

Massaponax produced some strong boys’ and girls’ teams in the early 2000s, but it has been more than a decade since the Panthers have competed for district titles. Said Shinberger: “We’ve had a lull, but she’s bringing it back.”

Not satisfied with one state tournament appearance, Brewster honed her game in the offseason at Fredericksburg Country Club, where she works part-time. She also learned from her matches with Colonial Forge’s Cunney, who went unbeaten in the 2018 regular season and graduated as a three-time Free Lance–Star All-Area player of the year.

“She was so consistent,” Brewster said of Cunney. “She always kept me running, no matter the score. And she would change her strategy, depending on the score. Those are the things I learned from her: be consistent and change your strategy based on what you need to do to win.”

Brewster’s other off-season focus was on the mental side of tennis.

“I do get really nervous sometimes, especially if my family is watching. I’m thinking, ‘What if I mess up and start shanking the ball all over the place?’ ”

That hasn’t happened often. Besides her tennis acumen, Brewster inherited a no-nonsense approach on the court from her father, himself an Army grad. Several of her family members attended West Point, and she hopes to follow in their footsteps.

“She doesn’t like going through the motions,” Shinberger said. “She gets very irate when anyone does. So she’s a good captain and teammate.”

Steve DeShazo: 374-5443

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