Tolman captures 2nd straight singles tennis title

Winning a state championship title is a tough proposition. Winning two, back-to-back, is improbable, if not outright impossible.
 But Emma Tolman, who recently graduated with the Weiser High School Class of 2022, pulled it off on Saturday, May 21 when she captured the Idaho 3A State Championship girls’ singles tennis title in a 6-3, 6-1 final match against teammate Kristy Bake.
 “Last year when I won, I started crying but as I walked off the court after my last high school match, I couldn’t cry,” Tolman said, expressing how it felt winning a second state title. “I was so happy and proud of myself that the tears didn’t come. I had accomplished something amazing even with the odds stacked against me. Instead of it feeling like an end, it actually felt like a beginning.”
 Tolman is now enjoying the fruits of her labor.
 “I think winning back-to-back state titles unlocked this new confidence in me that I will continue to nurture – not a cocky type of confidence, but a confidence that reminds me I can do anything I set my mind to,” she said. “I think I’ve been blessed to have that type of self confidence in my life.”
 Tolman said she did not anticipate the pressure that came with winning a championship and being faced with one, persistent question: “Are you going to win again?”
 “Going into my senior year was definitely daunting,” she said.
 But Tolman relied on what her father, Judd, taught her – that anything can be accomplished through hard work and determination. Fixated on winning a second title, she moved forward with the belief that she could do it.
 There were, however, some improvements that needed to be made. A new year brings new challenges and circumstances, and winning another title required fine-tuning her skills.
 “The two main skills that my dad and I worked on to improve were my serves and my net play,” Tolman explained. “We obviously practiced all the elements of the game; these two skills are where, I would say, I improved dramatically. 
 “Working on them changed my game and allowed me to put pressure on my opponents in different ways. Along with solid ground strokes, these things helped me become a more well-rounded tennis player.” 
 Tolman and Bake, two of the best in the state of Idaho, squared off during the district final one week prior to the state final, Bake handing Tolman a 7-5, 6-4 loss. To that point, both athletes had been undefeated on the season.
 The district final loss put Tolman in the same position she found herself in the previous year when she lost the district title to Parma’s Austyn Harris, only to turn around and beat her for the state title.
 “My initial thoughts were definitely frustrated,” Tolman said of the district competition. “It was hard to stay positive, but I chose to focus on learning from the match instead of dwelling on the fact that I lost. I made the commitment with my dad to go early to practice every day in order to prepare for state. The extra hours were tiring, but they made all the difference.”
 That was advice garnered from Judd who has passed on his own knowledge of the sport to a daughter who typically played against her older brothers who were not in a hurry to let her win.
 “My advice to Emma after the district championship match was to do what she did last year – namely, learn from the match and be ready for the next time they play,” Judd said. “Emma and Kristy are both great players but play very different styles. After Kristy won the district championship match, Emma and I talked about their different styles of play, and we decided to make just one change to Emma’s strategy. Over the few days, Emma practiced [that] one change so she would be ready when she and Kristy would play for the State Championship.”
 In terms of what it was like to play her own teammate for the state title, Tolman said she had to focus on the job at hand.
 “It’s hard to play such an important match against someone who has been your friend and teammate for years,” she said. “I had to make the mental effort to shut out the emotions that the situation made me feel, because they could be detrimental to how I played.”
 Tolman, who leaves for college in late July, said her dad was key to her success.
 “My dad has been the root of my tennis career. He has always been my favorite coach and knowing that he was there supporting me while I played made all the difference,” she said. “When I would make a mistake, I could hear my dad’s voice in my head telling me to move on and ‘try this’ during the next point. I’ve been blessed with the best dad, and coach, who has been able to help me along every step of my journey. I don’t think I would have accomplished half of the things that I have without my dad’s loving support.”  
 Judd said it has been a wonderful experience watching his daughter play and credits the coaches for her success.
 “During her four years at WHS Emma has had great coaches, Angie Soulen and this last year Scott Manser,” he said. “It’s been a blessing for me to have the opportunity to help out. Being able to coach Emma through high school has been for me one of life’s tender mercies; that she was able to win a State Championship is just a cherry on top (in this case two cherries).”
 As for pursuing tennis at the next level, Tolman said it’s not in her plans.
 “I would love to play tennis in college. However, that is not the direction that I have chosen,” she said. “I rely heavily on religion, and through pondering and prayer, I have decided to major in Musical Theatre. I have been offered a first-year position in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Musical Theatre program at Utah Valley University. Even though it’s not my plan to play on a college tennis team, I plan to take any spare time that I can to continue to build on my tennis skills and to maintain my love for the sport.”


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