By Travis Smola
It’s a cool but clear early May afternoon as star Vicksburg tennis player senior Josephine Hosner takes on a Paw Paw opponent in number one singles match.
On the bleachers nearby, her father Jack and grandparents Barbara and Al watch. This tennis thing is a bit more than just an extracurricular activity for the Hosner family. Daughter Joan used to go against the boys in her playing days. And Barbara recalls the moment of extreme disbelief back in 1974 when she found out her other sons, James and John, would face each other in competition for the state singles title.
James, a senior, ended up defeating John, a sophomore, and brought home a state title for Vicksburg.
The Hosner children established their tennis legacy far beyond the courts of the Bulldogs, however. All three boys went to Kalamazoo College. It was there James and John were part of national championship teams in 1978. Jim also earned a national doubles championship that year while partnering with Chris Bussert.
Jack earned a couple of national championships of his own in 1988 and ‘89. Both Jack and James earned 1st Team All-MIAA honors multiple times at Kalamazoo College. Jack earned the honor three times and Jim twice.
Jack and James ended up in Kalamazoo College’s hall of fame. Jack insists all that had no influence in Josephine choosing to go to Kalamazoo College next fall. The family went to visit and Josephine decided it was a good fit.
While she might also play for the Hornets, Jack notes Josephine is academics-focused and has lots of other activities that keep her busy. She was awarded the prestigious Heyl scholarship which covers tuition, books, room and board.
Josephine isn’t the only grandchild of Barbara and Al to play tennis. Joan’s sons also played. Her daughter, Meredith Smola, is currently a sophomore playing for Mattawan’s team.
Al Hosner meanwhile, sits quietly with a look of pride watching his granddaughter compete. Athleticism runs in the family, although he admits his own tennis exploits are not as extensive as the rest of the family. “When I first started, I thought I was going to be good,” he said.
But when his usual opponents upped their practice to four times a week and kept beating him, he knew he was too busy to keep pace. He has a lot of pride in his family and he does still have his four national paddleball championships to look back on.
It’s been a long season for the Bulldogs tennis team with only a couple wins. But Josephine sends the Bulldog faithful home happy with this match. She puts away her opponent in a match-up that far outlasts every other one on the courts that day in May.