The Hillsboro tennis team will build its success this season around a core of three veteran players.
One of them is a sophomore who comprised one half of a state tournament medal-winning doubles team in 2011, and the other two are seniors who are back for their fourth year with the program.
“I would expect us to be competitive all over, but with a few really bright spots,” said coach Bob Woelk, who is in his fifth year as coach. “I think we’ll be fun to watch. The girls like each other, which is always a good thing.”
The team’s best hope for success this fall likely will be Allison Weber, who teamed with sister Courtney last fall to place sixth at the Class 3-2-1A tournament at Dodge City.
“That was really exciting,” Woelk said. “That was my first trip to state. One goal is to try to return Allison to state, probably in singles. As a state qualifier, she’s potentially the best player I have.”
With the graduation of Courtney Weber this spring, moving Allison to singles seems logical. She had success at singles a year ago, going 6-0 in the No. 2 bracket.
“If Allison chooses to be a singles player, she’ll be the top one,” Woelk said. “Being left-handed and super quick makes her pretty dangerous.
“But it’s different playing singles,” he added. “She’s not really a net player, she’s a ground stroker. She loves to sit back and just rally with people. So we’re working on giving her some winners—some cross-court stuff and some short stuff when the opportunity is there. She has the skills.”
The two veteran seniors are Erin Winter and Peyton Loewen, who played No. 2 doubles for much of last season.
“Erin is probably the hardest hitter on the team,” Woelk said. “She’ll go as far as she wants to go—it’s that kind of a deal. If she gets some confidence going and gets those shots in, then I see some real potential there.”
Woelk said Winter could play singles this year, but she’s more likely to team up again with Loewen for doubles.
“It kind of depends how our challenge matches go, and we see what people are interested in doing,” he said. “They’ve both made noise that they’d like to play doubles.
“I’ve learned over the years that I need to set up (the doubles lineup) early and then leave it alone so they get a good chance to play together,” he added.
The Trojans have a third senior with potential, but limited experience. Bailey Kaufman joined the team last year as a novice player.
“She just sort of fell into tennis at the beginning of last year with no experience at all, so she’s improved a lot,” Woelk said. “She’ll probably be a doubles player.”
Another candidate for a spot in the lineup is sophomore Claire Heyen, who gained some varsity experience as a freshman.
“Claire is way stronger physically than she was last year,” Woelk said. “She’s also taller and stronger. I’ve seen good things from her already.
“Last year we sacrificed her to the wolves a lot,” he added. “With only seven players, she played a lot of varsity. She went up against (Hesston’s) Ali Anderson, one of the top 4A players in the state. She did really well and always with a smile on her face. She worked hard.
“I see some good things with her and she may move into a doubles situation with Bailey.”
Completing the roster are sophomore Lea Davidson, who is new to the district, and freshmen Hannah Funk and Allison Gray.
Woelk said Funk has participated in his summer camp for several years and Gray has played recreationally. He said Davidson “is working really hard and learning, but she started pretty much from square one.”
Woelk sees perennial powers Hesston and Smoky Valley as the favorites for the Central Kansas League title this year
“We don’t put a lot of emphasis on winning league,” Woelk said. “What we put emphasis on is trying to beat quality opponents wherever that is.”
The Trojans may have an advantage come regionals. Hillsboro will host the tournament for schools in this area.
The Trojans were scheduled to open their season Aug. 28 with the first of two home invitational tournaments. Hillsboro’s second home tournament is scheduled for Sept. 20.