SIKESTON -- With the new season opening today, the tennis culture in Sikeston seems to be on the upswing.
Nobody sees that more than Lady Bulldogs' coach Russ Dial. Taking over the program four years ago with seven players, the Lady Bulldogs now boast 19 players.
"Personally this is an indication to me the tennis culture here in Sikeston is moving in a positive direction," Dial said. "Additionally, as we move forward into the news season our girls' tennis team reflects this positive trend by displaying values such as positive attitudes, work ethic, willingness to learn and an enthusiasm for the game."
There are 12 new members on the Lady Bulldogs' this season with three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen. They join several returning players who saw plenty of match action last season.
Leading the way is junior Kelsey Dial. Kelsey Dial and her doubles partner Jacarra Lampkin qualified for the state tournament last season, however, Lampkin has graduated.
"The loss of (Lampkin) as half of our doubles team that advanced to the state competition last season could affect us adversely throughout the year if we don't have any current players step up to the level of the play needed to achieve the same success," coach Dial said.
Besides Kelsey Dial, Sikeston will be looking to returners Martha Neel, Bailey Coleman, Geena Hooper, Emma Ferrell, Kristin King and Alana Ellis to step up and help fill the void left by Lampkin.
Meshing the experienced with the new, coach Dial wants the team to grow. "We have expectations for those new to the game to become competitive and mentally strong players and continued tactical growth for our returners," coach Dial said. "We will strive to advance as a team to the sectional tournament and sending individuals to sectionals and state."
Sikeston opens the season today when they travel to Carbondale, Ill.