This year?s Hillsboro tennis team has no seniors on the roster, but has an unusual mix of experienced and inexperienced athletes.
On the experienced side, junior Allison Weber returns as a two-time state medalist, with junior Claire Heyen and sophomore Allison Gray coming back as letter-winners.
Sophomore Hannah Funk was a provisional letter-winner last season with limited varsity exposure. The remaining four members of the team are making their debut on the team, and three are relatively new to the sport.
?That?s kind of the situation I have?people who have a lot of experience and people who have no experience,? coach Bob Woelk said.
Weber is aiming for her third state tournament medal in three years. She finished fifth in singles last fall in Class 3-2-1A, and sixth in doubles in 2011 with sister Courtney as her partner.
?Our goal obviously is to return (Allison) to state, and medal at state,? Woelk said.
But he has another goal for Weber in terms of her play.
?What we really want to focus on is finishing points?not just being content to hit until the other girl makes a mistake,? Woelk said. ?(Waiting for an opponent?s mistake) works?until you get to the final of a meet. Then it doesn?t work anymore.
?That?s going to be the big step for Allison to take?to be aggressive and hit winners rather than just being satisfied to return. She is one of the best returners I?ve ever seen, but she?s going to have to finish points, get aggressive and hit winners.?
Woelk said he may change his strategy for Weber at this year?s Central Kansas League tournament. With the CKL widely regarded as one of the tougher tennis leagues in the state, Woelk entered Weber in doubles last year to protect her win-loss record in singles for the sake of regional seedings.
?I think this year I might just give her an opportunity to see what she can do in the league, because she can be a contender there as well?and be a medalist if things go right,? he said.
Heyen and Gray return with skills and significant varsity experience.
?Claire?s probably the second-most consistent hitter I have,? Woelk said. ?Claire is not a big shot-maker yet, but she?ll get (the ball) back. She?s consistent, has played some this summer and may do some damage.
?Allison (Gray) may have more natural skills, but is very inconsistent at this point. If she gets consistent, and a little mental toughness, she has potential.
?Only a sophomore, she?s one who is going to make some impact in the next couple of years.?
Even with their experience, Woelk said he is still considering how best to use them in the lineup.
?It looks like (I?m) leaning toward doubles with those two right now?we?ll see how it goes,? he said. ?Both have played singles and doubles, but depending on the day they are my second and third player?because sometimes they beat each other.?
Woelk said if he designated one of them for the No. 2 singles slot, the other would have to play doubles with an inexperienced teammate.
?Obviously, one of them is going to play doubles, and maybe the other, too?if that?s the best opportunity for them, then that?s what we?ll do.?
Woelk said Funk and freshman Anna Glanzer show the most potential among the less experienced varsity players.
?I?ve been pleased with Hannah Funk, who obviously, by watching her, has gotten a lot better since last year as a freshman,? Woelk said. ?Anna Glan?zer is showing a lot of promise as a freshman. She?s getting better every day and is learning how to play the game.?
The other three girls on Woelk?s roster are essentially first-year players in the sport. They are sophomores Destiny Sharp and Jazmene May, as well as Oliwia Pytlew?ska, a foreign-exchange student from Poland.
?There?s no substitute for practice and experience, so the learning curve is pretty steep right now?but they?re coming along,? Woelk said.
When the league tournament rolls around Oct. 5 at Pratt, Woelk expects perennial favor?ites Hesston, Smoky Valley, Pratt and Lyons to be the teams to beat once again.
?We typically don?t have a shot of winning or doing well at league, but I hope this year I can get a singles and doubles team that maybe can break into some semifinals and finals,? he said.
?It?s really all about how quickly they mature,? he added. ?Maturity and confidence are the two things that will really determine what we do.
?And luck,? he added, ?especially in regionals. We had terrible luck last year with draws. That probably cost us maybe one player qualifying. If you?re a No. 20 (seed) and go up against a No. 1, you?re in trouble.?
The Trojans were scheduled to open their season Tuesday with their annual home invitational. Their second invitational, and only other home tournament of the year, will be Sept. 26.