For the past several years Blue Earth Area girls tennis coach Terry Barnes has always commented that his team is young.
This year he has changed his tune.
"We are no longer young," he says. "We are seasoned veterans. And I think we are going to play like we are."
The 2014 Blue Earth Area Buccaneer girls varsity tennis team is pictured above. Front row, left to right; Beka Krussow, Kaitlyn Olsen and Karleigh Wolff. Middle row, left to right; Julia Hanson, Paige Darrington, Gracie Leland and Malarie Scholtes. Back row, left to right; Karli Olsen, Natali Fellows, Angie Cyphers, Anikka Wilhelmi and Lacey Benz. Not pictured, Annaliese Klinkner.
Helping lead the team are three seniors Karleigh Wolff, Kaitlyn Olsen and Beka Krussow.
"Karleigh and Kaitlyn have lettered since seventh grade," Coach Barnes says. "Karleigh has played No. 1 singles for us for the past three years, and she will be going in as our No. 1 again this season. She also went to the State Tournament last year."
Unfortunately, Olsen, the Bucs' projected No. 2 singles player, was recently injured in a non-tennis conditioning drill and will not play for at least three weeks.
Coach Barnes says he will move up two singles players and then have to break up a doubles team to fill in the fourth spot.
After the seniors on the Buc team, there are seven juniors and one sophomore on the varsity squad.
Anikka Wilhelmi, Natali Fellows, Karli Olsen, Paige Darrington, Annaliese Klinkner, Lacey Benz and Angie Cyphers are the juniors, with sophomore Gracie Leland also on the varsity squad.
In addition, freshmen Malarie Scholtes and Julia Hanson could also see some varsity action at times during the season. There are a total of 20 girls out for tennis this season.
The Buccaneers are wasting little time to get into the tennis season. After just one week of practice the squad left town last Monday morning, Aug. 18, and traveled to Le Sueur/Henderson for a scrimmage, followed by matches in a pre-season tournament at Glencoe/Silver Lake the next day.
"We use to go to Cannon Falls for a tourney at the start of the season," Coach Barnes says. "But this one has more teams from our section playing in it."
The coach also learned United South Central would be in the Glencoe/Silver Lake tournament as well.
"That will give us a chance to see how they are this year," the Buc mentor says. "We had some close matches with the Rebels last year."
While the Buccaneers lost one senior to graduation last spring, the Rebels lost two and one was their No. 1 player, Claire Christians.
USC also lost their girls tennis coach and will have a new one this year.
"We have a schedule that is jam-packed this season," Coach Barnes says. "We are on the road a lot because we want to be in tournaments as much as we can."
The Buccaneers are in a new conference this season, the Big South Conference (BSC) which combines the Southwest Conference (SWC) and the South Central Conference (SCC).
"There will not be a tennis conference tournament," Coach Barnes explains. "In our sport, there will be an east and west division. The two teams with the best record in each of the two divisions will play each other for the conference title."
Barnes says he expects St. James to be one of the top contenders in the west division which has five teams, and Waseca and possibly St. Peter in the east division which has six teams, including BEA.
"But I certainly expect us to be in the running," he adds.
To replace the conference tournament date on the schedule, there will be a quadrangular individual tournament that Barnes says he thinks will be a lot of fun for the team to participate in.
As far as the section competition goes, the Buc coach expects USC to again be the team to beat.
"But, I expect we should be very competitive," Barnes says. "I am guardedly optimistic about our chances this season."
Assistant tennis coach for the Bucs is Konny Wolff.