Freshman frustrations only strengthened the resolve of Portage tennis players Patty Mota and Lauren Wilk.
Mota was cut from the team in her first attempt to make the roster, but she hung around as a manager. Wilk made the junior varsity, but she played sparingly.
Three years later, both anchor doubles teams for the Times No. 8 Indians (9-3). Wilk and junior Emily Vahary are 7-5 at No. 1 doubles, while Mota and freshman Haley Mergl are 11-1 at No. 2.
"Both are very cerebral players, so willing to learn," said Portage's Scott Garrison, the girls' third coach in as many seasons.
"Lauren is a hard-hitting player. She likes to come to the net and take the point.
"Patty is a scrapper. She won't quit until the second bounce."
Mota clawed her way onto the roster after a disappointing start. She still questions how tryouts were conducted under coach Joe White.
"We had three open courts and four girls were at each one," Mota said. "Whomever was losing their match when a break was called had to sit out. I was losing my match and had to sit out. Tryouts ended. Whomever was on the court made the team.
"There was no explanation. I didn't think it was fair."
Instead of calling it quits, Mota hung around and made good use of her time.
"I did see it as being demeaning to be a manager, but I just wanted to play," she said. "(Coach White) said I might be able to play a few matches, and that's all I wanted. I would listen when he would talk to the players and take notes.
"I enjoyed the sport a lot."
Wilk made the squad, but played about the same amount of matches as Mota.
"It just kind of depended if the (opponent) had a big enough team," Wilk said. "I wasn't guaranteed to play. I was a part of the team, but I don't think I helped out that much."
Mota made JV as a sophomore, playing No. 1 doubles. She moved up to varsity No. 2 doubles as a junior. Wilk played JV singles and doubles as a sophomore, and split time last year on JV No. 1 singles and No. 2 varsity doubles.
Both are pleased to be playing for Garrison.
"I just felt like I had to prove myself to the first two coaches," Mota said. "We have a coach for real now. He actually coaches us.
"There's definitely a lot more instruction this year," Wilk said. "I'm learning about different strategies, ground strokes and volleys."
Garrison continues to see improvements from both senior doubles players. He admires how they've used their experiences in a positive manner.
"A few days ago, (Mota and Wilk) were explaining to the freshmen about why they need to stick it out," Garrison said.
"They've been wanting someone to coach them and make them better. They've both persevered, and they've gained confidence."