By Dennis Glade Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Spring is here and that means we have traded snow showers for almost daily thunderstorms, but the temperatures have warmed up and the girls tennis season is in full swing. Washington, Washington Catholic, North Daviess, Loogootee and Barr-Reeve all field competitive teams in the race for a sectional title. The five teams will be spread out across three different sectional draw’s next month, but there will be plenty of head-to-head competition between now and then.
Kevin Stallman returns as coach and he welcomes three seniors back from a team that lost in the first round to sectional runner-up Vincennes Rivet. Chelsee Brown, Audrey Rogers and Audra Stallman will provide senior leadership, as all three have two years of varsity experience.
“All of our girls, led by our three seniors, have been working hard in the pre-season in preparation for our matches,” Stallman said. “Chelsee and Audrey have been battling for our No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots, and we are currently trying to find the right combination for the rest of our team. Our doubles teams are improving everyday so I am hoping to see some very good things from them as the year progresses. I have been very pleased with their practice effort up to this point. Now we just need to play some matches to see where we stand.”
Marlee Stoner will come in at No. 3 singles, Stallman and Rebecca Guthrie and the team of Mareike Bayer-Haven Lunsford will be at No. 2 doubles. Stallman was a part of a doubles team that made it to the regional at Bedford North Lawrence last year with graduated senior Rachel Chattin. The Hatchets finished third out of four teams Saturday at Paoli Invitational, which was an encouraging start for Washington.
“We played well against two of the best teams we play all year,” Stallman said. “Even in the matches we lost, I thought the girls played the match close and we had our chances to win, but we just couldn’t pull out the victory. This should help prepare us for the big week (three matches) we have coming up. I am looking forward to see what this group can do this year as the season progresses.”
The Cardinals, led by coach Eric Wimmenauer, are looking to improve off a difficult 2013 campaign. The Cardinals finished with a 1-17 season and lost to Vincennes Rivet in the sectional semifinals at Vincennes Lincoln to end last season. The Cardinals will have seniors’ Macy Kane (No. 1), Claire Burch (No. 2) and Rachel May (No. 3) at the three singles spots to go along with senior Megan LaGrange-Uma Patel at No. 1 doubles and Amillia Mize-Marissa Bradley at No. 2 doubles.
“I think we’re playing alright,” Wimmenauer said. “I’m hoping our experience kicks in with our top three singles players. As long as we put forth the work and hustle, I think we can pull out a few matches and maybe do a lot better in the sectional than we did last year.”
Wimmenauer has high expectations for his seniors and the leadership they can provide, but he knows there is room to grow from the rest of the lineup to help Washington Catholic continue to improve with each match.
“We only had one girl on JV, and that was Uma (Patel) and she really improved,” Wimmenauer said. “She’s partnered with Megan (LaGrange) at No. 1 doubles.”
A year ago, North Daviess coach Lucas Calhoun’s team was trying to gain its footing in terms of experience and now the Cougars have that experience. On a team that fields nine seniors, North Daviess will have strength in numbers.
“We have a lot of senior leaders this year after having only one last year,” Calhoun said. “With those seniors that we have along with four upcoming freshmen, I like where things are at right now.”
At the top three in singles’ spots, Calhoun will have Nicole Woodruff, Brytni Bray and Megan Schenck. At the two doubles spots, North Daviess will have Taylor Jeffers-Madison Reed and Macey Mowery-Caitlin Chestnut.
“A number of our seniors have played for almost all four years,” Calhoun said. “To have our seniors guiding our four freshman — I like that balance. The program continuity will hopefully be there and we had a good offseason as far as workouts and studying film.”
At this time last year, Loogootee coach Mike Tippery was looking around at a roster that featured zero varsity experience. The lack of experience made 2013 a tough year, but already in 2014, there have been signs of progress. The Lions have defeated North Daviess twice this year already.
“The goal for this season was to improve upon last season,” Tippery said. “We’re still a year or two away from being a great team again.”
Loogootee will have a singles lineup of Emily Bateman (No. 1), Erin Nelson (No. 2) and Tara Pennington (No. 3). At No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, but Eden Jenkins-Ashley Lindauer and Ashley Jones-Emma Walters have gotten the start lately.
“Our singles lineup is basically the same as last year,” Tippery said. “We’re starting sophomore, sophomore, sophomore. I expect more victories out of them this year and to just gradually improve, knowing that for the most part we’ll be going up against juniors and seniors at those spots and athletes who have played 60 or 70 varsity matches.”
The Vikings enter the season after last year ended with a loss in the sectional final to Northeast Dubois, looking for their first sectional title since 2000 under coach Mandy Hannah. The Vikings will have five seniors’ in Allison Hoover, Hania Sisco, Kaitlin Swartzentruber, Breanna Taylor and Jessica Curti.
“I think we’ve played pretty well, I’m very pleased with our effort and how we have improved,” Hannah said. “I’m anxious as the season gets going to see how we match up with everybody else.”
After losing just one senior from last year — Destiny Kidwell — Hannah’s lineup has shaped up nicely with the Vikings winning two of their first three matches. Hoover will be at No. 1 singles, Melody Rohrer at No. 2 singles and Bethanie Knepp at No. 3 singles. Sisco-Baleigh Miller will be at No. 1 doubles and Kaitlin Swartzentruber-Leah Bullock at No. 2 doubles.
“I feel good about our lineup,” Hannah said. “I think we’ll be pretty strong with that lineup.”