In a way, Brooke Despriet has been here before.
Despriet, a junior at Lambert, hasn't played much competitive tennis since the spring season was cut short in March. She's been able to practice plenty, but competitive tennis remains on hold.
Around the same time last year, a shoulder injury forced Despriet to sit out a couple of months and miss a number of summer tournaments.
For Despriet, a return to normal can't come soon enough.
"I haven't played in like three months now, but I think they're starting tournaments back up in July, so that should be a good place to start," Despriet said. "Hopefully I can start out strong."
Despriet, the 2020 Forsyth County News Player of the Year, was Lambert's No. 2 singles player last year when the Longhorns beat Milton 3-2 in the Class 7A state championship. Her sister, Taylor Despriet, played No. 1 singles last season, then took over at No. 1 doubles during the Longhorns' title run.
Brooke came into this year aiming to help Lambert back to the championship, but also hoping to prime herself for the junior tennis circuit, where a strong showing could ramp up her recruitment.
"College coaches don't really look at high school performances, they look at tournaments. So I would say with no tournaments going on, it's really hard," Despriet said. "Last year I was kind of injured for a while, so my ranking wasn't that high. I felt like I was just getting back into it, and now with no tournaments, I feel like I'm just kind of stuck. I'm where I was last year, but I think I've improved a lot more."
Despriet had a particularly impressive showing in August at the USTA Billie Jean King National Championships in San Diego, California, where she and her doubles partner, Kavya Patel, advanced to the Round of 32 of the girls 16 doubles tournament.
"I didn't do that great for me, but I did really good in doubles because I'd say I'm more of a doubles player," Despriet said. "That's probably the best part of my game, is my net game."
In addition to her net game, Despriet believes her mental toughness and ability to read the court set her apart.
"I usually can expect where the ball's coming, and I have really good timing with my strokes, so I can hit the ball pretty clean," Despriet said. I'd say I'm pretty efficient, I guess."
Despriet, who began playing tennis at 4 years old, sacrifices much of her time to practice her craft. She goes to school from 8 a.m. until noon, then plays tennis from 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. After that, she goes home to eat dinner and do homework.
Then there are the weekend tournaments.
"You just have to know you're sacrificing a lot. Like, you can't be a normal high schooler," Despriet said. You have tournaments almost every weekend, you have to travel out of the state, stay in a hotel. But you make a ton of friends, so it's worth it. Anywhere you go, you know you have people to hang out with that weekend, so it's really fun."
Right now, though, all of that is on pause. But Despriet knows she'll be ready once the time comes to play again.
"I've been emailing coaches, and some of them have reached out to talk to me on the phone," Despriet said. "They're hoping once the whole pandemic is over I can go and visit their school."