WINONA LAKE – To say that the addition of Emily Mast to the Grace College women’s tennis program this season has been a win-win situation for all involved would be an understatement.
Mast, the former prep star at Fairfield High School, has been a winner both on and off the court this fall for coach Marcus Moore.
Mast, who played last year at the University of Toledo, has gone unbeaten as the No. 1 singles player for the Lancers. The standout sophomore has not lost a set all season, including Tuesday when she posted a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Taylor Freedline (former Elkhart Memorial star) of Bethel College in a Crossroads League road win for the Lancers.
Mast, who led her Fairfield team to the State Finals in 2015 as a junior, has found the fit at Grace to be like that of a perfect pair of gloves.
“It’s just been an awesome fit for me at Grace,” said Mast in a phone interview Monday. “I love Grace so much. It’s been a smooth transition for me. I knew a couple of the girls on the team and I also connected with coach (Marcus Moore).
“Our tennis team here is my family. I think of all of the friendships that I have already made here and how much I’ve grown as a person here at Grace.”
Moore, in his first season as the head coach of the Lancers after assisting his twin brother Scott the past two years, offers nothing but high praise for his ace.
“Emily has brought a wonderful energy along with a knowledge of the game to our program,” said Moore, who starred in basketball and tennis at Grace himself. “She has been that steady foundation that we’ve always relied on at No. 1 singles. Her energy and love for the game shows daily and her love for her teammates and Grace College is encouraging.”
Mast headed to Toledo, an NCAA Division I program, after a prolific prep career. She compiled a 96-7 mark in her fabulous four years as the top player for coach Mike Fibrun’s program at Fairfield. Mast advanced to the State Finals as an individual as both a freshman and sophomore for the Falcons.
“I thought that to play Division I tennis was a great thing and that was always my goal, but as I’ve grown there’s so much more to life than tennis,” related Mast, who played in three matches for Toledo in 2016. “I love the game and love where I’m at now. Here at Grace, though, I’m more than just a tennis player. I’m invested in others and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Moore, who sports a roster this fall with just one senior, loves to coach Mast.
“Emily is a coach’s dream,” said Moore, who was the Jimtown High School boys basketball coach for the past three seasons before resigning in May to spend more time with his family. “My favorite thing about Emily is she is always striving to become better and she loves to be coached. Many top players are set in their ways when it comes to tennis and Emily is far from that. She is always open to trying new things that allow her to continue to evolve her game.”
Mast, who is an elementary education major who aspires to be a tennis coach one day, admits that she is a somewhat surprised by her success.
“This was all new to me and I did not know what to expect, so I’m a little bit surprised that I’m undefeated,” said Mast. “I’m really hard on myself and at first I thought that I was starting off rocky this season. I’ve had a few injuries that has frustrated me, too.
“I just pray a lot about the injuries and try to be mentally tough out there. I think my adrenaline keeps me going. I just try to keep it in perspective that tennis is fun and that it’s an opportunity that I need to be thankful for. It’s so easy to get discouraged, but I try not to do that.”
Moore, who is a native of Columbia City, says that he loves Mast’s fighting spirit.
“Emily is a fighter,” noted Moore, who continues to teach at Jimtown. “Again, when things aren’t going her way on and off the court, she digs down deep and uses positive energy to stay above water. I just love watching her play because even when things look astray, I know it won’t be long before she turns things around. A lot of adults could learn valuable life lessons by simply watching Em play tennis.”
Mast has also excelled on the doubles court as she and sophomore partner Carrie Copeland play No. 1 doubles. Copeland, a sophomore from Plainfield, is also Mast’s roommate. The pair posted an 8-2 win Tuesday during their team’s 7-2 league win over Bethel.
“I love doubles,” said Mast. “Carrie just knows me so well and is so encouraging. We work really good together.”
Mast also has a couple of “quirks” that are very interesting. Her socks always have to match and she freezes Sour Patch Kids, her favorite candy.
“The socks thing is kind of a mental thing and a security for me,” explained Mast with a laugh when asked about it. “It’s kind of the look good, play good thing. Sour Patch Kids are my favorite candy ever. My roommate at Toledo said to freeze them and got me hooked on doing that. I’ve told everyone that. I’ve spread it like the Gospel.”
Moore expects even bigger and better things from Mast the rest of her collegiate career.
“I fully expect Em to break our all-time singles wins record at Grace,” remarked Moore, whose team is 8-4 overall and 4-4 in conference play. “That would even be a more impressive feat by having only three years to do so but she’s off to a great start. But more than winning, I predict Em will continue to grow in her faith and love for the Lord, our school and our tennis program and mold into a leader that all coaches desire to run their program.”
Emily Mast is undefeated this season at No. 1 singles play for the Lancers.