The area high school girls tennis scene has been young recently, and that will not change this spring.
Angola and Westview appear to be the top area teams returning. They will try to compete with Fairfield for supremacy within the Northeast Corner Conference.
The Hornets took some graduation hits, but have four varsity players returning and appear to be a big favorite in their local sectional.
Angola had what athletic director Mark Ridenour called a “position infraction” in its Angola Sectional semifinal dual with Prairie Heights last year. That affected two spots in the lineup where the Hornets won matches. Those wins turned into forfeit losses and turned a 4-1 Angola victory into a 3-2 Heights triumph.
The Hornets were fourth in the NECC Tournament last year.
They will be strong at the top of the lineup with junior Jadyn Davis at No. 1 singles. She had a 17-8 record and played in the singles sectional tournament despite having an arm injury for half of the season.
Other varsity players returning are Sydney Craig, Bailey Pelliccia and Chloe Hutchins.
Lizzie Gomez has stepped up with an excellent winter tennis season, Angola veteran coach Scott Hottell said.
Freshmen Ellie Aldred, Paige Powers and Grace Shelburne have all shown early promise toward contributing to the team this spring, he said.
“Angola graduated several key athletes last year but has regrouped to create a solid squad again this year,” Hottell said. “The junior varsity has also shown much promise and is progressing quickly with numerous athletic freshmen and sophomores.”
The Warriors also have some big graduation losses to contend with after finishing second in the NECC Tournament. They include Reghan Heffner and 2018 KPC All-Area doubles player Serenity Corlett. But new coach Austin Christner will have solid seniors returning in Madison Kresse and No. 1 singles player Lauryn Riegsecker.
Kresse and Corlett won the NECC Tournament title at No. 1 doubles last season. Where Kresse will play this season is being determined in preseason preparations.
Riegsecker was third in the NECC Tournament at No. 1 singles last season.
Senior Kelby Christner and junior Alexis Roth also return with varsity experience. Austin Christner will rely on that veteran leadership a lot.
Coach Christner graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University last year and played four years of tennis for the Wildcats.
“We have four seniors who are great ladies as well as great players,” he said. “They set an great example for the underclassmen via their leadership daily.”
Westview will look to improve on its mental toughness and understanding of tennis strategy as the season goes on.
“Tennis is a mental game, so my hope is to teach the girls how to handle adversity. Learning how to handle adversity is a great life lesson,” Coach Christner said.
“As for understanding the strategy of tennis, I challenge our ladies to always be thinking on the court. I want them to understand why someone is beating them and think of different ways to adjust their game plans mid-match,” the coach continued. “It is easy to think of different ways after the match, but we are trying to get the girls to make those adjustments mid-match to hopefully result in a couple more wins.
“If we continue to seek opportunities to learn and improve, then the sky is the limit for this team.”
Brad Parker started a program pretty much from scratch, built a strong core and won a couple of sectional championships.
Parker stepped down, and the core he built, the strong singles trio of Erika Maneke, Ellie Cole and Maggie Kaiser, all graduated.
Four new coaches are sharing the responsibilities and working together to build skills at all levels, said CN co-principal Shawn Hoover.
The Cougars have 12 girls playing tennis, including four seniors, Macy Griffis, Chasidy Kissinger, Alyson Robinson and Madi Walker.
Robinson, Griffis and Walker all saw regular varsity action in doubles. Griffis and Walker were new to tennis last year and defeated an NECC opponent for the first time at No. 2 doubles against West Noble in sectional play.
“We are working together to build a sustainable program and encouraging our younger players to develop skills and confidence to be ready for play at the next level,” Hoover said.
New coach Aaron Edwards will lead the rebuilding Knights, who went 5-11 in 2018.
Returning varsity players include seniors Jordan Stayer and Erin Bloom and sophomore Kayla Desper. They will be joined by a large group of returning junior varsity players and many girls new to tennis.
Key graduation losses for East Noble were Hannah Denton, Rachel Ort and Samantha Ley.
The Lakers have four starters returning from a team that went 2-10 last season. Constant themes for this program recently will continue in that Lakeland will look to grow in court experience and depth in order to be more competitive this spring.
“We have to continue to improve and build depth throughout the team,” fourth-year coach Kyle Grossman said. “We need returning letterwinners to step up and be good every night to compete for wins.”
Junior Beth Stroop placed fifth in the NECC Tournament at No. 2 singles last year. Senior Gabrielle Larimer is also back after playing at No. 3 singles in 2018.
Lakeland also returns starters with doubles experience in senior Ally Llera and junior Isabelle Larimer.
The Lakers have 15 girls playing tennis this season, including nine underclassmen.
New coach Eric Culler will have 17 girls playing tennis in Brushy Prairie. Numbers have been an issue recently for the program.
“Coaches have raised their expectations not only pertaining to wins but to develop a more consistent program,” Culler said. “This group has been working very hard to prepare for the upcoming season.”
The Panthers have experience on their side, but will look to be more competitive to go with that experience.
Jenna Culler, Caterina Staton and Mariana Garcia are in their fourth seasons playing tennis at Prairie Heights. Olivia Mettert and Alyssa Ebert are in their third years with the program.
You can’t take away last season’s sectional championship from the Eagles. It was the first sectional title in program history. Coach Lexi Skeens’ young team will look to build from it.
Fremont will have to replace nearly its entire doubles teams from last season after Adrianna McDowell and twin sisters Kirsten and Taylor Lovett graduated.
Returning varsity players for the Eagles include senior Anna Eisinger and juniors Brianna Slee, Ava Eisinger and Olivia Dornbush.
DeKalb, West Noble, Churubusco
DeKalb and West Noble will be anchored by a strong position while Churubusco will look to build up its competitiveness.
The Barons will be led by battle-tested senior Bethany Lancaster. She battled a shoulder injury on her serving arm all last season as she went 5-10. She had some three-set matches not go her way, but still made the All-Northeast 8 Conference Second Team.
Senior Marie Burton also returns for DeKalb. She was a KPC Media Group All-Area honorable mention last season.
Seniors Tara Miller and Riley Kruger were a solid doubles team for the Chargers last season. They were the NECC Tournament runners-up to Westview’s Corlett and Kresse last season, then advanced to the doubles sectional tournament and beat the Warrior duo there at Northridge on their way to earning KPC All-Area honors. Look for Miller and Kruger to stay together to attempt to take a bigger step or more.