Unified Tennis Brings Together Unlikely Students



eam members, Eric Connolly, Carter Albers, Jensen Ritter, and Ellie Townsend smile after the win at District Championships

Elise Smith

Last year, the Unified Tennis team at Oakdale blew everyone away by winning a State Championship. The same thing is in reach this year, with promising players who have good sportsmanship and positive attitudes.


Tennis is one of the three unified sports at Oakdale, and one of the most successful. Unlike other sports, unified sports almagate students having disabilities with students who don’t. 

One would think that it would present a challenge to have this diversity, but the teammates relish their time spent on the court, as well as off the court with each other. 


All sources interviewed mentioned the closeness the team upholds. For example, Nic Livengood, a Sophomore on the team, answered, “yes,” when asked if the team supports each other. He also mentioned liking the sport because of the other students involved: “I like [tennis] so I can make friends,” he recounted, smiling.


Teammates have opportunities to get to know each other during practices, tournaments, and bus rides. Junior Jensen Ritter recounted that teammates talk with each other a lot on 

the bus, as well as playing fun games during practices. 


Coach Terrance Connolly emphasized, “The biggest thing [of the sport] is…becoming better friends as opposed to being better at tennis.” He mentions that the program brings some unlikely groups together, creating a more diverse community of athletes. 


Another difference unified tennis presents compared to other sports is in the scoring. In unified tennis, players can either compete in a best-of-two sets doubles competition or in skills  competitions, in which players can be tested on their individual skill sets. Typically during doubles play, a student with a disability pairs up with a student without one. According to Coach Greta Harrison, teammates are paired up based on their skill level and friendly chemistry.


Despite not having a priority to win, the team has been very successful over the years, winning a state championship in 2018 and having won gold at the District Championships for the past three years, according to Harrison. 


This year, they won district championships on October 14 by going undefeated through doubles play, and playing hard in the skills competition. Connolly concluded that the win was “a complete team effort,” and mentions that their next tournament, the state tournament, will be very competitive.  


All athletes will need to put their full effort in in order to win states for a second year in a row. Harrison commented, “Our team knows in order to participate in the state tournament, they have to win all of their matches.” This will be a difficult task considering the intense level of play that the state tournament will be. 


The state tournament is open for public viewing on November sixth at Loyola University, and any support would be appreciated. 


Photo caption: Team members, Eric Connolly, Carter Albers, Jensen Ritter, and Ellie Townsend smile after the win at Di