Team of experience, youth
With 24 girls from grades 7-12 out for tennis at Blue Earth Area this year, head coach Terry Barnes and assistant coach Konnie Wolff decided to try something different.
“This last week we have had all of the girls playing each other in sets,” Barnes says. “We have not had our usual practices. Then we assigned points to each player throughout the week and tallied them at the end.”
The point system was used in determining who the two coaches would be starting on the varsity squad.
“The girls have embraced it,” Barnes says. “And, we have seen some real surprises in who has stepped up their game.”
The team’s ‘starting lineup,’ at least for the first week, has a youthful look to it.
Karleigh Wolff, a freshman, will be at the No. 1 singles position. At No. 2 singles will be Abby Nimz, a junior.
Another ninth grader, Kaitlyn Olsen, will be the starting No. 3 singles player, while Karli Olson, an eighth grader, will be at the No. 4 singles spot.
The youthful look continues in doubles.
Eighth grader Anne Franta teams up with Lindsey Prokop, the team’s only sophomore, at the No. 1 doubles position.
At No. 2 doubles it will be junior Autumn Drake and eighth grader Anikka Wilhelmi.
Junior Aeli Olson and freshman Beka Krussow team up for the No. 3 doubles combination.
Last week the team played three matches in the Cannon Falls tournament on Tuesday, the junior varsity played on Wednesday, and both teams played on Friday in Le Sueur.
“By the end of the week we should have a good idea of what is working or if we need to make some changes,” Barnes says.
The Buc mentor says the team will play New Life Academy, Minneapolis Washburn and Cannon Falls at Cannon Falls.
“Last year we went 2-1 at this tournament,” he says. “We will see what we can do this year. It is a good way to start off.”
The coach says a goal this season is to stay above .500 for a win/loss record. And to contend in the conference.
“I would assume that Waseca and St. James will be good again this year, as they are perennially always good,” the coach adds. “The rest of us in the conference may be fighting for third place.”
While the team looks very young on the score sheet, the coach says he is encouraged by the great strides some of the kids have made since last year’s season.
“We lost a great player in Emily Slama,” Barnes says. “But I feel we have a very talented team to work with.”
The Bucs have five seniors. Morgan Schoenfelder and Malissa Schaefer saw some limited court time on varsity last year. The two will serve as the Buccaneer’s team captains this season.
“We also gained two former volleyball players,” Coach Barnes says. “Seniors Camille Driscoll and Allie Curtis are out for tennis this year and both are superb athletes and are developing their tennis skills rapidly.”
The fifth senior on the team is foreign exchange student Meike Rirsema. Because she lives with a BEA coach’s family, Minnesota State High School League rules preclude her from participating on the varsity level.
There are three juniors on the squad; Olson, Drake and Nimz. All three lettered last year.
Prokup is the one sophomore and also is a returning letter winner.
Besides Wolff, Krussow and Olsen, the other ninth graders on the team are Kali Viland, Adrien Wittlieff and Samantha Lorenzen. Wolff and Olsen were letter winners last season.
Franta, Olsen and letter winner Wilhelmi lead the list of eight eighth graders on the team. The others are Paige Darrington, Natali Fellows, Lacey Benz, Angie Cyphers and Annaliese Klinkner.
Gracie Leland is the lone seventh grader out for tennis.
With a half dozen matches scheduled for the first week, Coach Barnes says he should get a real good look at all the players and decide if any changes need to be made.
“We may have some growing pains before the final season line up. But, I have to say, I am really pleased with this whole group of girls,” Barnes comments. “The attitude of the whole team is excellent. They all get along, they all work hard. I think it will be a great year.”