(photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
Former tennis head coach Lynne DeWitt will take over the team for Suzanne Hart, who in five years had a record of 33-37. DeWitt coached the team for several years before that dating back to the 1980s.
And with the top two players returning from last year, DeWitt is excited about the season.
"I think they'll do good," said DeWitt. "We have the top two starters returning and the others have worked real hard this summer. A lot of them have been to camp and they've worked hard on their own."
But after No. 1 Elizabeth Killion and No. 2 Lindsay Leible, who are both juniors, the team is very inexperienced with the graduation of four experienced seniors.
"Only two saw varsity action last year," said DeWitt. "Most played jayvee and we have four out that haven't played at all so we don't have much experience."
Killion took second place in the district tournament last year to qualify for the state tournament. And while Leible didn't qualify, she did get some valuable experience against some strong district competition.
"She's played in lots of tournaments this summer," said DeWitt. "She's seen good competition and she's taken lessons and been to camps this summer. Lindsay has played hard and she comes back with a lot of experience in districts."
Although challenge matches were still being played at press time, DeWitt said juniors Charlie Richey, Jeri Nichols and Chelsea Gilliland were all playing well.
Others that are vying for varsity spots are juniors Jamie Davidson, Jessica Colwick and Lindsey James and sophomore Hallie Lambert.
Also competing are freshmen Brittney Bohannon, Emily Bowman and Katie Ralph.
"We're just practicing hard and we want to go out and try to win every match," said DeWitt. "The girls have high goals for themselves, they want to have a winning season."
Sikeston will open the season on Sept. 3 at Chaffee at 4 p.m.
Traditionally, the Charleston Lady Bluejays tennis team doesn't rebuild, it reloads.
But with the graduation of five of its top six players from a 13-2 team, head coach Mitch Baker isn't proclaiming dominance just yet.
"I think anytime you lose five girls that were as good as the girls we lost, you would have to classify this as a rebuilding year," said Baker. "I'm never going to be satisfied with just going out there and losing matches. I want to personally win every match. Realistically, I just want the girls to go out and give 100 percent every time they play and improve every time they play."
He returns senior Mindi Leuhmann, who played as the No. 4 singles player last year.
"Right now she's the one leading the team," said Baker. "She's gone to state the last couple of years in doubles. We have 26 girls on the team so there's lots of movement right now that can happen. The lineup has shuffled every time we've challenged."
After Leuhmann, it's all brand new faces.
"I think we're fair," said Baker. "We've got a lot of inexperience. We're just going to have to see what happens when we play matches and see how the girls react. They've practiced real hard. I've ran them extremely hard. I have assistant coach Seth Benton and he's been a big plus to the program."
Competing for varsity spots were juniors Megan Leuhmann and Claire Showmaker, and seniors Ashley Barnhill, Libby Renaud and Julie Smith.
Also hoping to find a spot on the varsity are sophomores Laura Burton and Kamiya Sager and junior Lauren Smith.
"We've really pushed conditioning this year," said Baker. "That was one of our weaknesses last year and that was completely my fault. I didn't push them hard enough and that probably cost us a really great season last year. I'll say one thing, we won't lose any matches this year on conditioning."
Charleston will open the season today when they host Chaffee at 4 p.m. They will play at Dexter on Tuesday at 4 p.m.