Playing tennis is like second nature to Journee White and Nia Cooper.
White, a sophomore, and Cooper, a freshman, are the No. 1 doubles team for the MICDS Rams.
Postseason play begins Tuesday at MICDS. The Rams compete in District 6 with Principia, The Fulton School at St. Albans, Villa Duchesne, Visitation Academy and Whitfield. After team play, singles and doubles play will be held Saturday.
“I love playing with Jounee we have been playing together since we’ve been about 7 years old so we know each other’s game very well,” Cooper said. “We also have very similar games so us playing together is tricky for any opponent. We’re playing well together and we’re excited to be going to districts together.”
“Playing doubles with Nia is nothing new. I have known her since I was like five years old,” White said. “Playing USTA (United States Tennis Association) with her has helped with chemistry on the courts and knowing someone on the team for a long time has been really cool.
“She is a freshman but she has adjusted really well. It’s fun watching her transition just like me and I am able to give her advice to help her adjust easier.”
White went the Class 1 state doubles tournament last fall. She played with Caleigh McClain, who has graduated. The pair finished fifth in state.
“Playing with Caleigh was fun,” White said. “We had to learn how to play with one another in a short period of time and reaching the state doubles was a really big accomplishment.”
Now, the goal to do get back to state with Cooper.
“I think Nia and I have a great chance to reach state in doubles,” White said. “We won the ATA National Girls 14 U tournament together last year and that was one of our biggest wins. It will be great to share this experience of competing in the state doubles with Nia as well.”
MICDS coach Patrick Huewe said they have progressed nicely as a doubles team this season.
“They have experienced some success at No. 1 doubles with wins over Lafayette’s No. 1 team of (Katie) Ferguson and (Meghan) Ferguson, Rock Bridge’s No. 1 team of (Mary) Hose and (Maggie) Lin, and close matches with St. Joe’s No. 1 team of (Ellie) Choate and (Lexi) Woodman,” Huewe said.
The two girls got their start in tennis playing for the Net Rushers Tennis Association — the historically black tennis organization in St. Louis.
“I was 4 years old when my parents first took me to a Net Rushers tennis camp,” Cooper said.
White still stays in touch with Net Rushers.
“I continue to show up and support Net Rushers because they have been very supportive of my tennis journey,” White said. “I also love to see new players learning just like I did when I was young.”
However, White credited her mother planting the tennis seed for her.
“My mom (Paula) is responsible for getting me started into tennis,” White said. “I played with Net Rushers but I also received private lessons and played in the local clubs year round. My high school success is a result of private lessons, summer camps, and the many people and organizations that have invested in me over the years.”
Both girls are regulars playing in the summer, Huewe said. White finished in the top 15 in USTA Missouri Valley with a top 5 ranking in Missouri. Cooper is also a top 20 player in USTA Missouri Valley and top 5 player in Missouri.
Huewe likes what he sees from both girls on the court.
White’s game is well rounded, Huewe said.
“Journee plays with a combination of finesse and power,” Huewe said. “She’s extremely skilled at playing on or just inside the baseline because she has amazing timing and hands. Speaking from personal experience playing Journee, it’s impossible to overpower her. She is most successful when she uses her power in spurts when she has openings and combines it with beautiful touch near the net. “
Cooper’s game is developing nicely, Huewe said.
“I’ve never had a player on the girls’ team hit the ball harder than Nia and when she connects cleanly with the ball it’s like watching a WTA professional. For Nia to be successful on the court against top level competition it is a matter of balancing her power with aggressive footwork and consistency. It’s also important for her to find her rhythm on her serve, which can be very effective in setting up her first couple of shots. She’s extremely vocal on the court for herself and her teammates, which I would love all of our players to follow. “
Cooper has been battling a shoulder injury this season.
“I started off the season with nagging shoulder injury that continued to pop up,” Cooper said. “The doctors were saying it was overworked and my muscles were not strong enough. It definitely slowed down my practices from the start of the season. It also was the reason why I was out all summer. It kept me from traveling, playing tennis all summer.
“Tennis is very important to me. Since I’ve been 8 years old, I have been getting up at 4:15 a.m. practicing before school. My summers consist of two practices a day.”
White is enjoying the challenge of playing No. 1 singles this season as well as playing doubles with Cooper, who is the No. 2 singles player.
“Playing No. 1 is a huge change for me because this role comes with the responsibility of being a leader and I am learning to adjust to those expectations,” White said. “Last year I was the youngest on the team and I played No. 2. Being No. 1 , I am playing the most challenging players, however I am enjoying being No. 1 because I worked really hard over the summer and I am happy to see that all my hard work paid off.
“Tennis is a high pressure sport and although I am use to playing under pressure I still have things to work on with this part of my game. Playing No. 1 has improved how I handle pressure tremendously not only in tennis but also in life situations.”
White also plays tennis year round.
“Tennis is one of the most important parts of my life. Every time I am on the court I give it 100 percent because I know that someone is working just as hard and I want to be the best,” White said. “Tennis is also an escape from the real world for me. When I am playing it’s just me and the ball and no one controls what happens but me. It’s relaxing and calming to know I decide the outcome but also disappointing when I lose because I feel as if I let myself down.
“I absolutely love tennis, being on the tennis court allows me the space to be my best self and I am so happy to have the opportunity to play.”
Cooper said The Triple A Youth Foundation has been important to her.
“They have helped me and my family tremendously. Because of their continued support, I have traveled all over the Missouri Valley, competed in top tournaments like ATA Nationals and the Orange Bowl,” Cooper said.