Just three matches into the season, the Flagstaff Eagles have already used 10 different players on the varsity roster.
While there have been constant changes to the order so far, freshman Pearl Garner has topped the order for the Eagles (1-2) in all three matches as she earned her way to the top spot before the season started.
“At the beginning of our season, we did a bunch of challenge matches and Pearl just beat everybody,” said Eagles head coach Kaitlyn Verfuerth. “I am stoked to have Pearl as my No. 1 because I have four years to work with her. It’s good for me and good for us.”
While Verfuerth is familiar with many of the youth players around town, Garner wasn’t one of those she had coached before high school.
“I work with some of the other pros in town and I have seen a lot of kids, but I had not seen Pearl yet,” Verfuerth said. “I had just heard about this girl, that she had some talent and some promise.”
Flagstaff's Pearl Garner prepares to return a ball during Thursday's match against the Thunderbird Chiefs at Thorpe Park.
Garner dropped her match to Thunderbird (3-1) on Tuesday 6-0, 6-0 in Flagstaff’s 9-0 loss, as many of the Eagles struggled with a few regulars missing from the lineup for a variety of reasons. Savannah Bell, Dani Tirado and Colette Boulet also dropped their matches at No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 6-0, 6-0 while Morgan Cloverdale and Meghan Mooney lost at No. 2 and No. 5 6-1, 6-0.
The loss was Flagstaff’s second consecutive 9-0 defeat after starting the year off with a 5-4 win at Peoria two weeks ago. Cloverdale and Tirado earned singles wins in the season-opening victory, as did Rachel Lovett and Autumn Jackson. Tirado and Jackson also combined for a doubles win.
Garner led early on in her first varsity match before her nerves caught up with her, according to Verfuerth.
“She was up 5-0 in the first set, in her first varsity set and first time playing No. 1,” Verfuerth said of Garner’s match against Peoria. “I went down to some other courts to watch other girls and when I came back it was 5-5. She learned a lot during that match.”
“I think this season is definitely going to be a growing season for us,” Verfuerth added. “I told (Garner) all that matters for me is if you go out there, try your hardest and put all of your heart into it.”
Garner paired with Triado in an 8-0 doubles loss, with Mooney and Bolet doing the same at the No. 3 doubles spot. Cloverdale and Bell dropped their match at No. 2 8-1. With Cloverdale, Lovett, Tirado all seniors and Bell a junior, the middle of Flagstaff’s order is hopefully going to be filled with a group of upperclassmen during the season.
Flagstaff's Morgan Cloverdale prepares to hit a ball during Thursday's match against the Thunderbird Chiefs at Thorpe Park.
With a road match at Cactus Shadows set for next Tuesday, Flagstaff will not host another match until after spring break. A meeting with the Mingus Union Marauders on March 27 will begin a busy week, as Flagstaff will then face rival Coconino March 29 and Coronado on March 30.