HHS tennis gets German boost

Members of the HHS girls’ tennis team this fall are (from left) Abby Fry­hover, Shelby Johnson, Kayla Gunn, Grace Damon, Caroline Roth, Ellian Weisbeck, Destiny Holinde.<p>
Members of the HHS girls’ tennis team this fall are (from left) Abby Fry­hover, Shelby Johnson, Kayla Gunn, Grace Damon, Caroline Roth, Ellian Weisbeck, Destiny Holinde.<p>
The Hillsboro girls’ tennis team will get an international boost this fall with the arrival of Caroline Roth, an exchange student from Germany.

Coach Bob Woelk said Roth will make an immediate impact for the Trojans.

“She has played since kindergarten (age 5), all on clay courts in Europe,” he said. “She has said she’s played in a lot of tournaments, but until we put her in competition, I just don’t know how she’ll react.”

Woelk said Roth brings not only years of experience, but several weapons: an effective kick serve, an excellent drop shot with backspin and a topspin baseline volley.

One challenge for Roth will be the transition from the clay courts of Germany to the concrete courts of Kansas.

“On clay courts you do a lot of sliding into shots, and here you don’t slide,” Woelk said. “But she’s coming along quickly. She’s an excellent baseline hitter, so you don’t want to get into a long game with her. She’ll outslug you pretty quickly.”

With the return of two letter-winners, juniors Ellian Weisbeck and Shelby Johnson, Woelk has an experienced top-three on his seven-player roster.

“Elli has taken on a leadership role with the girls, which I really like to see,” Woelk said. “She’s a very encouraging person, she’s tall (6-feet-1) and she has improved.”

“I’d say her biggest improvement will be in her competitiveness,” he added. “She needs to improve her aggressiveness, but we’ve seen improvement in that. She has verbalized that she wants to be more of a competitor this year.”

Johnson returns after finishing last season on a high note.

“She didn’t have a lot of wins under her belt, but last year in regionals she went up against the top player in the state of Kansas (3-2-1A) and held her own for a little bit and frustrated her,” Woelk said.

“I told her a week ago that what she needs to do is to pick up where she left off last year as a sophomore. I think she’s pretty close to that.”

With significant experience on the top end of his roster, Woelk has four girls who are coming out for tennis for the first time: sophomores Kayla Gunn and Grace Damon, and freshmen Abby Fryhover and Destiny Holinde.

“It’s going to be a matter of how much they improve,” Woelk said about their role on the team. “We’re starting from scratch with most of them.”

The experience disparity on the roster creates its own coaching challenges.

“It’s definitely nice to field a whole team,” Woelk said. “The problem is we don’t have enough to have a JV. I’ve already started talking to (the first-year players) that when you start in these seeded tournaments, you’re going to go up against somebody who is going to be really good. Then you eventually percolate to your own level, which is always nice.”

Woelk said the ideal would be to have four strong players at the top of the roster when it comes to assigning roles in competition.

“If I play Caroline and the second-best girl—which I don’t know right now if it’s Ellie or Shelby—at singles, what happens to the No. 3 player?

“If I play Caroline and the top other player at doubles, then that makes that third person No. 1 singles. Someone is going to be sacrificed. That’s nature of it.”

Early in the season, Woelk’s approach has been: “We have some numbers; we’re going to work on improving every day and see what happens.”

The Trojans were scheduled to open the season Aug. 30 with the Hillsboro Invitational at the Sports Complex. Their next home appearance will be Sept. 22 for the Trojan Invitational.