Youth highlights new BEA girls tennis core
No coach ever likes to use the words “rebuilding year.” It seems to suggest that they have already given up on the current season and are looking ahead to the next year.
In the case of this year’s Blue Earth Area girls tennis team, the “rebuilding year” tag is probably apropos. But, they are a long ways from giving up on this season.
The fact is that the team lost their top seven players from last year’s team to graduation including all four singles players. Gone are Karli Olsen, Natali Fellows and Anikka Wilhelmi, as well as Lacey Benz, Annaliese Klinkner and Angie Cyphers.
But, that doesn’t mean coach Konny Wolff finds the cupboard bare.
“We have 24 girls out for tennis this year,” coach Wolff says. “And that includes a lot of young girls. Some of them are already stepping up into leadership roles on the team.”
The Bucs have just one senior on the squad, and that is Gracie Leland. She’ll be playing at No. 1 singles, even though she played No. 1 doubles last year.
There are three juniors out and two of those, Malorie Scholtes and Julia Hanson, will be playing singles at No. 2 and 3 singles. The other junior is Jo Cervantes
The fourth singles spot is being taken by eighth grader Arika Howard. Wolff says Howard did real well her first time out on the court.
There are three sophomores out including Carissa Engesser and Serina Wirth who will be vying for varsity positions. Athena Thompson is back out for tennis for the first time since seventh grade.
Freshmen Sydney Blagg, Maddie McCleary and Macie Stevermer will be seeing varsity action, while Grace Roiger will be on the junior varsity squad.
There are seven eighth graders out for the team. Besides Howard playing varsity, Tea Armstrong and Mckenna Dutton will also be on the varsity team.
Other eighth graders are Cali Beyer, Lindsey Borris, Britt Howard and Phoebe Loge.
“We have not had to have tryouts the last two, three years, but we did this year,” coach Wolff says. “Every spot on the team was open. We will move girls around a lot at first to see where they will play.”
“I have to find doubles partners who work together well,” the Buc mentor says. “I don’t think we have all those combinations set yet. Just because two girls are friends doesn’t mean they can play well together. Sometimes we just have to try out combinations until it clicks and works.”
Some of the younger girls are really improving fast, and the coach expects a few, like Beyer, could make the move to varsity.
The team had just one week of practice before starting an ambitious week of competition. In fact, the girls will have played in nine matches by the end of the first day of school, Tuesday, Sept. 6.
“We started off the season on Monday, Aug. 22, with a road trip,” coach Wolff says. “We traveled to Le Sueur-Henderson and scrimmaged them first.
Then on the next day, Tuesday, Aug. 27, the Bucs played three matches in the Glencoe-Silver Lake early bird tournament. They came home to take on United South Central on Aug. 25, Le Sueur-Henderson again on Aug. 26, Belle Plaine on Aug. 29, Albert Lea on Aug. 30, Maple River on Sept. 1 and Luverne on Sept. 6.
“That first week of practice I had the girls do a lot of conditioning drills,” the coach says. “After that third match in Glencoe I think they knew why.”
Wolff says she was very impressed with how well the team did at the Glencoe tournament.
“Many of them were close matches, and a few went to tie breakers,” Wolff says. “And beating Glencoe 7-0 was a big plus, it was a big boost to the younger girls on the team.”
Still, the season will be a battle all the way, with a lot of very good teams on the Buccaneer schedule.
“St. James is rated fourth in state and St. Peter is rated ninth,” the coach says. “That makes for tough competition out there. But we will improve all year and will do pretty well. It is a good group of girls and they will play hard all the way.”