EXTRA POINT: New coach will lead largest tennis team

New coaches, three returning state qualifiers and a record number of participants are the key developments for the Hillsboro High School girls’ tennis team this fall.

Lynn Wiebe, herself an HHS tennis team alum, has succeed her brother, Lonnie Isaac, as the team’s head coach this fall. Because of the record 16 athletes out for tennis this fall, she’ll be joined by an assistant, Michelle Faul.

Wiebe played on the very first HHS girls’ tennis team back in fall 1975. Before she graduated, she qualified for state three years-in doubles twice and singles once.

Wiebe also was successful on the court at Tabor College. The fall after she graduated in 1985, she was appointed assistant coach at Tabor, then took the head position for the following two seasons. She left the game for a few years, then returned to coach again from 1991 to 1995.

Wiebe has been away from coaching since that time. When Isaac left HHS this summer to coach women’s and men’s at Tabor, Wiebe felt the itch to return.

“I was interested in getting back into tennis and this seemed like a good opportunity and the right time,” she said.

Her appointment continues the string of years that the tennis coaching position at HHS has remained in the Isaac family. Wiebe’s father, Al Isaac, was at the helm from 1988 to 1994. Lonnie took over in 1995.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not,” Wiebe said with a laugh.

She inherits a team with three returning state qualifiers. Last fall, Becky Jantz and Amber Hefley won the regional doubles competition without losing a set and finished 10th at state. Candace Barkman and Megan Vogel qualified for state by placing fourth at regionals, but lost their first two matches at state.

Jantz graduated this spring, but Hefley, a senior, and Barkman and Vogel, both juniors, are back for another run.

“It’s great to have players with that kind of experience on the team,” Wiebe said. “The other girls realize what can be accomplished by having them around.”

Joining those three as upperclassmen on the team are Josie Bartel, a senior, and juniors Angie Claassen, Jessica Boese and Katie Nixon.

Kelli Just is the only sophomore on the team. The rest of the squad-eight players in all-are freshmen.

“What I’m excited most about is the number of kids out for tennis and the amount of interest there is in tennis at Hillsboro High School,” Wiebe said. “I’m looking for ways to give them all opportunities to play.”

She credits the number of freshmen on her team with the broad interest in athletics exhibited by that particular class.

“Some of them have realized they’re not all going to play volleyball, so they might as well find something else to do,” she said. “Tennis gives them an opportunity to be involved in sports.”

Though she wants to get around to each player at least once during practice, Wiebe said Coach Faul will work most directly with the junior varsity players.

“I’m excited about her helping because she has helped Lonnie and me previously with the summer rec tennis program,” Wiebe said. “She played for me at Tabor while she was there and she’ll be good to have out there.”

Wiebe said she hasn’t decided which players are “varsity” and which are “junior varsity.” She said she purposely has avoided reviewing last year’s team results.

“I’ve not done my homework,” she said. “I’m hoping-if not for my benefit, then for the girls’ benefit-that I don’t come in with any sense of a hierarchy, or who is better than whom. I’m coming in and I’m saying, ‘OK, you guys show me on the court.'”

In the same sense, Wiebe is “still experimenting” to see who will play singles and who will play doubles for her.

“I don’t feel I know their talents well enough yet,” she said. “I don’t want to be naming any names because I don’t want to give them the impression that I’ve picked my people.”

One thing she is pleased with is the leadership her seniors and juniors have exhibited.

“You talk about a positive attitude on the court, these upperclassmen are really positive and they also treat the freshmen very nicely,” she said. “They’ve made the freshmen feel they are part of the team. “

The girls opened their 2001 season yesterday with a home meet at the Sports Complex. Results will be reported in next week’s Free Press.

The team’s next matches will be at Sterling on Thursday. Action is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

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