Ainsworth effective on the court, a character off

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014




Pam Pack tennis player Luke Ainsworth is not the top talent on head coach Miranda Whitley’s roster. Neither is he the tallest, nor the fastest. And he’s fine with that.

Yet, there isn’t a player on his team, maybe even the conference, that’s more enjoyable to watch play.

“Luke has always been a very entertaining to have on our team,” Whitley said, as Ainsworth discreetly sat in the background, making amusing faces at his coach, just minutes after playing one of the most dominant matches of his high school career. “Other teams have even complimented on how fun it is to watch him play, how much they like him. So, it’s going to be interesting without him. We will definitely miss him.”

With such a unique personality, it was only fitting that Ainsworth was, in fact, the lone senior meriting recognition on a dreary, but successful Senior Day, as the team decisively defeated Reidsville, 5-1, in the first round of the dual team playoffs. Ainsworth came out on top against a tough opponent in Reid Soloman 6-3, 6-1, improving his overall season record to 15-6.

“Luke played the match of his life today on his senior day,” Whitley said. “I’m so proud of him. He picked the perfect day to play as well as he did.”

As a sign of respect from his teammates, the word “SENIOR” was written in multi-colored chalk across the third court. Ainsworth’s court. On a day defined by anxiously starring at weather radars, waiting for the gray, gloomy clouds to open up and soak the courts, court three almost obnoxiously stood out from the rest, truly symbolic of Ainsworth’s colorful personality.

After finishing his 2013 campaign with a singles record of 8-4, the Washington senior had to adjust to a different level of competition with the move from Class 3-A to 2-A.  With the demotion comes a drop talent level, but Ainsworth says he’s always looking to be challenged.

“Against Rose, that was the best match I’ve ever played,” Ainsworth said. “I lost (quite conclusively, 6-1, 6-3), but it was fun because I played against someone that didn’t just dink the ball over.”

A challenge awaits Ainsworth on Saturday, as he and his doubles partner, freshman Zack Pagnani, will head to Greene Central for the regional match.

“We have to win two matches to get to states,” Ainsworth said. “I think if we’re lucky enough, we can get that first win. That second win, I have no idea … but I think we have a chance.”

While Ainsworth is confident and consistent on the court, tennis is hardly a priority come post-high school. The senior, a leader in the classroom, will be attending the University of North Carolina Asheville to study Mechatronics, an intricate design process that incorporates mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.

The team certainly will not be the same without its vibrant poster boy, but Ainsworth isn’t worried.

“I think that next year is going to be a really good year for them,” Ainsworth said. “They’re only losing me … and that’s not that bad. So next year … I think they’ll be just fine without me.”