Bishop Dwenger's Audrey Rang could have been Fort Wayne's next great singles tennis player. Instead, the sophomore is probably lucky to play at all this year.
Rang was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in her back and hips. She compiled a 23-1 record as a freshman last year playing No. 2 singles behind her sister Ashlyn, but that wasn't a possibility this season.
``The doctors really wanted me to take this year off, but I said no,'' Rang said. ``Doubles was the outcome. I know some people weren't happy about it, but it's what I had to do. Some people don't understand.''
Rang and Bishop Dwenger junior Elizabeth Maxson will try for a state doubles title this weekend in Indianapolis. Canterbury's Leah Barnes and Blackhawk Christian's Andrea Cook will compete for the singles title.
Cook, 21-0 as a junior, will play Carmel sophomore Bailey Padgett at 2 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals, while Barnes, 26-0 as a freshman, will play the winner of a morning match between Kankakee Valley senior Abbey Hamstra and Evansville Mater Dei senior Claire Alvey. Maxson and Rang, 21-0, will play Bloomington North's Courtney Baugh and Megan Coghlan in the quarterfinals. The semifinals are at 10 a.m. and the championship and consolation matches at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Playing with Maxson has been a blast for Range because the two are good friends and because Maxson is such an accomplished doubles player. She went to state in doubles as a freshman while playing with her sister Danielle, and then the entire Saints' team made it to state last year for the first time since 1984.
``I've actually really enjoyed it,'' Rang said. ``I never thought I would like doubles this much, but I think a big factor is my partner is one of my best friends. She knows what she's doing. I've played doubles before but not this intense, and she made the transition easy for me. We're so close; we're like sisters.''
Maxson is the team's tactician, setting up points for Rang to pound away at the net. They are 21-0 this year and have won 42 of 43 sets so far. The foundation of the team is their friendship.
``She's a good player all around, so it didn't really take much to get her into doubles,'' Maxson said ``We're really close, and I was close with my sister because you can tell each other and help each other with anything without someone getting mad. I personally enjoy doubles more than singles because you're not out there alone, and you can have fun and still be serious with somebody. You can help each other. It's also not just your fault all the time.''
Ironically, Maxson also wears a back brace because of injuries she's had in the past.
``This has been an interesting year,'' Maxson said. ``It's just really cool for us to experience.''