Season preview: New Richmond girls tennis goes after fifth straight MBC titleWith four straight Middle Border Conference titles in their trophy case, the New Richmond girls tennis team has ruled the conference for years.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
With four straight Middle Border Conference titles in their trophy case, the New Richmond girls tennis team has ruled the conference for years.
And any team wanting to take the title away from this year’s Tigers is in for a battle. The Tigers lost half of their varsity lineup to graduation, but an all-in attitude during summer workouts has gotten the Tigers primed for another run at the top spot in the MBC.
The Tigers lost the top players in their singles and doubles lineups from last season, but the coaches began preparing players to step up into those positions since last season ended.
“Stepping up to number one is a big step,” said second-year Tiger coach Denise Devereux. “We have girls who have worked hard and showed they can play at the number one spot.”
Stepping into the one doubles role are senior Amy Kukacka and sophomore Mattie Kidder. They both played lower in the varsity doubles lineup last season.
Junior Kaycie Anderson was Kukacka’s partner at two doubles last year.
Devereux said one trait the number one players have is their competitive nature.
“They all really know how to compete,” Devereux said.
If you don’t think that’s a big deal, try returning a serve from a number one player from Eau Claire Memorial or some of the other strong tennis programs the Tigers face this season. If you aren’t a fighter, you won’t last long.
At the end of last season the coaches gave the girls a list of things they needed to accomplish in the off-season. Leading the list was a sheet of drills designed to improve their overall tennis skills. The coaches also sought consistent play over the summer, including involvement in several tournaments. That showed in the New Richmond Open during Fun Fest, when more girls than ever were competing.
The final item on the list was involvement in the Tiger Strength program during the summer. The girls showed excellent dedication to the workouts and it’s showing in practice. From top to bottom on the roster, this may be the best conditioned team the Tigers have had to start a season.
The Tigers are strong and deep in the singles and doubles lineups. Senior Hailey Davis and junior Maggie Earley return to the singles lineup. They are very close in skill level and they will hold down the two and three singles slots.
The rest of the varsity lineup is filled by players with little or no previous varsity experience. These girls saw the opportunity and spent their summers drastically improving their game. Juniors Ali Graff and Shannon Peper moved up to take the two doubles positions. Seniors Carley Brotzler and Allie Wrich seized the three doubles roles. Junior Heather Halvorsen takes over at four singles.
“We’ve got depth. We’ve got girls who can play,” Devereux said. “We have people who worked really hard over the summer to make themselves better.”
Devereux said that extends to the junior varsity, where many of the girls are significantly improved over last season.
Leadership is a big part of the Tiger success. This season the Tigers are running a captains’ practice each evening. Kuckacka, Wrich and Davis are the team’s captains. The coaches said the captains and several other girls have stepped up to provide strong leadership this season.
Devereux said she expects the Tigers to make a strong run at another conference championship. She views Baldwin-Woodville as the main threat because of the strong players the Blackhawks possess at the top of their lineup.