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Inexperience won't lower goals for New Richmond girls tennis team

The seniors on the 2013 New Richmond girls tennis team are (l-r) Emily Laporte, Blaire Ziebol, Mattie Kidder, Andrew Greer and Michelle Powers.1 / 3
Junior Christian Weaver pounds the ball with an overhand smash during her victory in the Tigers' season-opening match against Menomonie.2 / 3
Maya Dadez is one of the young Tigers whose improvement in the off-season helped her make the move from the junior varsity lineup to a spot on the varsity team.3 / 3

Just two players return to the varsity lineup for the New Richmond girls tennis team this season.

Tiger coach Denise Devereux believes that lack of experience will not preclude the Tigers from making a run at another Middle Border Conference championship.

Senior Mattie Kidder and junior Christian Weaver are the only returning starters for the Tigers this season and both are being asked to move up flights in the team’s singles lineup.

“I believe we can be a contender (in the conference), even though we graduated so many girls,” Devereux said.

She said Baldwin-Woodville should also be a contender, though the Blackhawks graduated their top three players. Amery also returns several strong players.

Part of the reason for the Tigers’ optimism is the challenging junior varsity schedule the team plays each season. Devereux gets the JV into as many tournaments as possible, especially those that are run in full three-set matches similar to what the girls will experience at the varsity level. While a number of girls competing for spots in the varsity lineup have only played one year on JV, the intensity of the JV schedule has gotten them ready to make the step up to the next level.

Kidder might be making the smallest step in the lineup, moving up one spot, but the competition at one singles is immeasurably more difficult than what she faced last season at two singles. Devereux said Kidder was fully capable of playing one singles last season, when she and Kaycie Anderson were virtual equals. Devereux said the biggest difference for Kidder will have to be in her approach to the matches.

“At this level she needs to be attacking. She attacks well, but now she needs to attack on every point,” Devereux said.

Weaver moves up from four singles to two singles. Weaver is showing more physical tools this season, hitting the ball with much more pace.

“Her game is there. We saw a lot of improvement from Christian in the Eau Claire tournament (last week),” Devereux said.

One player who made it clear from the first practice that she belonged in the varsity lineup this season is junior Emma Bakke. Bakke has become a potent third option in the singles lineup, striking the ball hard and showing nimble footwork.

“She’s improved so much over the summer, she played in all kinds of USTA tournaments. She’s worked very hard at it,” Devereux said.

Another player who made a big advancement is sophomore Maya Dadez. Dadez is starting the season at four singles, but Devereux said she would fit equally well into the doubles lineup.

“She’s definitely a lock for a spot in the lineup,” Devereux said.

The only other player with any varsity experience entering the season is senior Blaire Ziebol. She was a top JV player last season and she stepped into the varsity lineup for a handful of matches. Ziebol and junior Kaitlynn Belisle quickly stepped up to take on the one doubles role for the team. Devereux said Belisle has a style that is well suited for doubles.

“Kaitlynn and Blaire was a combination that clicked really nicely,” Devereux said. “They both can volley very well. Neither is a power hitter, but they are both scrappy and they like to get to the net.”

The lack of experience on the roster shows more in the doubles lineup. The coaches have a number of candidates vying for the four spots in the two and three doubles flights, but the girls are so tightly bunched that the coaches are trying different combinations in every match. Senior Emily LaPorte, junior Brianna Kupke, sophomores Gaby Cruz, Kjrsten Faaren and Taylor Stai and freshman Gabby Kupke are the six top competitors for the four varsity spots.

I wish I could play 12 kids, because they all deserve to be in there,” Devereux said. “They are all athletic and have such good attitudes.”

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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