(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With a host of seniors returning, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs tennis team are hoping to field a more competitive lineup for the 2012 season.
Led by District 1 singles champion, Kelsey Dial, the Lady Bulldogs have four other seniors that have been with Sikeston head coach Russ Dial since their freshman year.
"I'm excited about that because they have that experience under their belt," said coach Dial. "That should give us a more solid, 1-6 lineup in the varsity. I really do believe our top three, whoever they are, will be very solid."
The younger Dial finished her 2011 season with a Class 1, District 1 singles championship and a Sikeston Invitational singles championship. She ended with a record of 13-6 losing only twice to girls who weren't in Class 2.
"She's coming in a little bit rusty having not played a lot this summer, although she did play some," said coach Dial about Kelsey Dial. "She's looking pretty good as of right now. She's working hard."
Dial's season came to an end last year when Lutheran South's Jessica Rakers defeated Sikeston's stand-out 6-4, 7-5 in a Class 1 sectional.
Along with the younger Dial, the Lady Bulldogs will have the luxury of sending out four other seniors with loads of experience including, Martha Neel, Emma Ferrell, Geena Hooper and Jordan Powell.
"Hopefully, we'll have six who are solid players in our lineup especially with our seniors with how experienced they are," said Dial. "Those seniors are showing great leadership and I thought they would be a little bit rusty coming in, but they're surprising me. They came in ready to play."
Because of their experience, Dial has noticed that his seniors have taken it upon themselves to keep up their practice regimen while he's working with a slew of younger players with little to no tennis experience.
"The senior girls have really taken the initiative when I'm helping the younger girls with their basic, fundamentals," Dial said. "Hopefully by the end of the year, we can turn some of the inexperienced into competitors."
In all, Dial has the opportunity to field a team of 20 total players spread throughout varsity and junior varsity.
"I like it merely for the fact that it says we're building our program," Dial said. "With 20 girls, it expands the talent pool."
Sikeston will begin their season Aug. 23 with a trip to Poplar Bluff.
Aug. 23 at Poplar Bluff
Aug. 28 Jackson
Aug. 29 Dexter
Aug. 30 at Fredericktown
Sept. 4 at Caruthersville
Sept. 6 at Carbondale, Ill.
Sept. 8 Sikeston Invitational
Sept. 10 Poplar Bluff
Sept. 11 at Charleston
Sept. 13 at Cape Central
Sept. 17 Notre Dame
Sept. 20 at Kennett
Sept. 24 Charleston
Sept. 26 at Dexter
Sept. 27 Kennett