With a year?s experience, tennis aims for impact

HHStennis221.jpg
HHStennis221.jpg

Hillsboro High School?s varsity tennis players to start the 2009 season are (from left) Hailey Pankratz, Aubrey Meier, Elise Heyen, Becky Faber, Emma Heyen, Courtney Weber.

Bob Woelk starts his second season as the Hillsboro High girls? tennis head coach leading the second stage
in a rebuilding process.

With only one experienced senior in 2008, Woelk pressed five sophomores?some with limited tennis background?into varsity roles.

Those five are back this fall as juniors and Woelk is challenging them to ?make some noise? in the league.

?Those girls who played last year as sophomores got good, solid varsity experience, but their records weren?t very impressive,? he said.

?I?ve told them that as freshmen I was their JV coach, and then as sophomores they were kind of thrown into varsity competition because we had had a lot of seniors (in 2007) and everybody else were freshmen.

?I told them you are now bona fide varsity players and it?s time to put away our childish things,? he added. ?It?s time to be thinking about making a impact.?

Heading that pack of five is Becky Faber, who established herself as the team?s top player by the end of last season.

?We have no one who qualified for sub-state last year, but Becky would probably be our top player returning as a junior,? Woelk said. ?She has the most varsity experience and best record.

?She?ll be a contender around the league,? he added. ?People will know about her.?

Faber?s classmates?Aubrey Meier, Hailey Pankratz, Emma Heyen and Elise Heyen?will fill four of the remaining varsity spots, with sophomore Courtney Weber likely being the sixth player in the lineup.

?Courtney did not play a fall sport last year due to injuries and illness,? Woelk said. ?She?s stepping in and looking right now to be in the varsity mix as a sophomore.?

Woelk said last week he was still trying to establish his lineup for singles and doubles.

?It?s kind of an easy thing to pick out your best singles player, but the challenge is to come up with the right combinations at doubles,? Woelk said. ?These junior girls all like each other? and that?s a good thing, because they don?t get uptight about who they?re playing with.

?We?ll be trying to settle into some strong doubles partnerships (as the season progresses). We?ll just see how that all shakes out.?

Growing roster

In addition to having a more experienced varsity squad, Woelk is buoyed to see his roster grow from eight to 14 athletes this fall with the addition of seven freshmen.

?The good news is because I have 14, we?re building a program back again,? he said. ?We have a full slate of JV girls, which means we can play a full slate of JV matches.?

Sophomore Calli Nickel returns for her second season, joining freshmen Peyton Loewen, Sierra Benda, Erin Winter, Christy Hein, Lexus Sinclair, Rachel Schneider and Katie Claassen.

?I am impressed with the freshmen as a group of girls that are not just returning the ball,? Woelk said. ?As a whole, they?re very intelligent and they pick things up quickly.?

But with bigger numbers comes a bigger challenge for Woelk as the team?s only coach.

?My challenge is to try to bring those JV girls along and at the same time try to do some things with the varsity girls as well,? he said. ?That?s been the challenge so far.?

Season outlook

Woelk expects more competitiveness from his varsity, but he said perennial powers Wichita Collegiate, Hesston and Smoky Valley make the Mid-Central Activities Association one of the toughest tennis leagues in the state.

?The bottom line is we?ll be improved, but we?ll still be young,? he said. ?We?ll be starting to have some impact.?

Woelk hopes the ?noise? his team could make at the league tournament at Collegiate Oct. 3 continues into the post-season.

?We host regionals this year,? he said. ?We want to make a showing at regionals as well and qualify as many girls as possible for state, which is the ultimate goal.?

In addition to regionals Oct. 9-10, the Trojans host two regular-season home tournaments. The Hillsboro Invitational was set for Sept. 1. The Trojan Invitation is planned for Sept. 24.

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