Kurt Lovelady, a former Bearcat varsity tennis player himself in 2000, inherits a phenomenal core group of athletes for the 2007 season. Amanda Dooley, the 2006-2007 Standard Democrat Female Athlete of the Year returns for her senior season.
Dooley, also known in the area as the player to give Sikeston standout tennis player Jenni DeWitt her best challenge, has a lot to live up to after a great season last year on the court. Lovelady believes that she has what it takes to win a state title.
"Dooley guarantees us a win every time out. She's our leader on the team by far," Lovelady said. "She's our leader in singles matches, doubles matches, stretches, just about everything.
"DeWitt will be her biggest match this season. I can't wait to see them face off."
Neither can any of the tennis fans in the area.
"It will be the match of the year. Those girls are just at the top of their game in the area. They play all year long, and they're just athletes," Charleston girls tennis coach Seth Benton said.
That aside, the Lady Bearcats have a great team returning in 2007. Dexter has five of its six starters from its 2006 squad. Returning players include Dooley (senior), Katelyn Heil (junior), Emily Vines (senior), Kendra Rinehart (senior) and Kristyn Lemons (senior). Dooley and Heil will be the No. 1 doubles team for the Lady Bearcats, as well as the 1-2 punch in singles.
Lovelady expects a lot out of Dooley and Heil, as well as his whole squad. "We definitely should be over .500. I don't see why we wouldn't be. The way I look at it, if we win our singles matches with Dooley and Heil, and then they win their doubles match, then we're halfway there," Lovelady said. "Then we only have to win a couple more matches, and we're winning (the meet) for the day."
The Lady Bearcats lost a couple of .500-level players to graduation last year, but Lovelady doesn't think that will faze them. He said that they have a good nucleus, and that they have a couple of young players that are gaining a lot of experience from watching Dooley and Heil.
"I've got a freshman named Catherine Kinchen that I'm ready to put into action," Lovelady said. "She doesn't have any game experience just yet, but she's picked up the game of tennis in one short year, and she's pretty good. I can't wait to see what she's got when we get into match play."
As with a lot of area teams, Lovelady said that the team to beat will be Sikeston and DeWitt. He said that he hasn't scouted a whole lot of teams, with this being his first season as the head coach. So, he looks forward to doing some scouting when they faceoff in this season. He plans to build a scouting report for 2008 to be more prepared.
"The girls know what I expect of them," Lovelady said. "They know that I want at least a .500 season, and they know I want them to work hard. These girls have shown up all summer long to what I call 'open court,' and they've worked very hard at accomplishing their goals. Every once in a while, we may have a bad game, but our conditioning has been strong, and so are the girls' desires to win."
The Lady Bearcats travel to play Charleston for their first match on Aug. 28. The first Dooley-DeWitt matchup of the season will happen Aug. 29, when Sikeston visits Dexter.