After the Lady Bulldogs had an 0-17 campaign in dual meets during 2006, netters Jenni DeWitt, Megan Underhill and Danielle Ahlfield spent six weeks of the summer at the indoor Rowten Tennis Center in Paducah, Ky., honing their tennis skills.
"I learned a lot (at the RTC)," said Jenni DeWitt, who went 22-3 overall in singles matches, finished fourth at the MSHSAA Class 1 Girls Tennis State Tournament last year and placed sixth at the state level in 2005. "They taught us things like having the right attitude, how to be mentally prepared and, of course, the game itself."
In addition to seniors Jenni DeWitt, Underhill and Ahlfield, who all return with varsity experience, there are three more candidates applying for spots in the Sikeston lineup: sisters Campbell Moore (freshmen) and Hannah Moore (senior) and Caroline Murray (junior). Hannah Moore and Murray both played at the varsity level in 2006. Mallory Collins (senior) and Jacarra Lampkin (freshmen) are competing for time at the varsity level.
"I've seen improvement from last season," Sikeston coach Lynne DeWitt said. "These girls practice hard and they seem to have a strong work ethic."
"We had some doubles teams score points for us at the district meet by winning matches in the first round," said Lynne DeWitt, who has been at the helm of the Lady Bulldogs girls tennis program for 15 years.
Coach DeWitt said the Lady Bulldogs' lineup is up for grabs. Challenge matches are still taking place at the SHS tennis courts.
"It's hard to determine a set lineup when all the girls have done is play against themselves. I think they need dual meet competition for me to make a better evaluation of their talent," Lynne DeWitt said.
Until then, Sikeston will have different lineups that will be mixed and matched. Coach DeWitt said she is looking for the right combination of players who can provide consistency on the tennis court.
Sikeston has six spots open for singles players and three spots open for doubles teams. At dual meets after the Lady Bulldogs have completed singles competition, the Top 6 Sikeston players will be paired for action as doubles teams.
"I know the girls are tired of playing challenge matches. They're ready to get into some live competition," Lynne DeWitt said.
Jenni DeWitt, who played at the No. 1 singles position in 2006, has been tested this summer and would like to enjoy her senior year.
"I think I've seen a lot of different levels of experience and game styles from different players this summer that I know I will be able to read and react a lot better during my matches," said Jenni DeWitt, who played in six United States Tennis Association tournaments this summer.
Sikeston begins its season with a dual match at Carbondale, Ill., at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Lady Bulldogs play their first home match at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Poplar Bluff.