Young tennis team readies for upcoming season

Though this year’s women’s tennis team members may be starting off young with only one returning senior, they have plans for quickly developing winning ways both on and off the court.

“A lot of the girls came into this season with not the best idea of how varsity meets work,” senior Meghan Saak said. “However, they are all catching on very quickly, and I have high hopes for them throughout the season.”

To help with this, the team has gone from two coaches to three, bringing in coach Tara Sagers from the Black Hawk Tennis Club, in addition to returning coaches Mike Knox and Sheryl Dekutoski.

“[Sagers] has been very influential as a coach,” senior Emily Fishel said, “helping us perfect the basics and encouraging us during matches.”

In addition, the team did a lot of preparation before the season started to help newer members. “We’ve been working hard during the off-season, playing matches and taking lessons at the tennis club,” sophomore Astoria Chao said. “As we’re pretty inexperienced, we have worked extra hard and will continue to improve our skills.”

Despite the lack of experience, the team is aiming high. “The biggest team goal is to get to the state tournament,” Saak said. “We do have a lot of young players on our team, so it won’t be easy, but I think our hard work throughout the offseason could get us there.”

Coach Knox also said that though the team is young, the potential is great. “For the past several years, Cedar Falls women’s tennis has consistently been one of the teams in conference capable of being conference champion. We go into this season with that kind of expectation and goal,” he said. “This is a very high goal because of our youth and inexperience as well as the high level of competition in the Mississippi Valley Conference.  In three of the past five seasons, the state champion in women’s tennis has been a team from our conference. We also hope to qualify for the state tournament, either as a team or on an individual basis.”

One important ingredient in the team’s success for this year will be the friendship and camaraderie of all the players. “I feel like everyone is friends and we all support each other,” sophomore Jamie Knox said. “I can talk to anyone on the team, and that’s a really good feeling.” Saak agreed. “I moved to Cedar Falls right when the tennis season of my sophomore year started, and I’m still friends with people I met that first week,” she said. “Tennis can be as individual or team oriented as you want it to be, and it’s really easy to meet some great people along the way.” Coach Knox said he is excited about the team’s potential this year: “I think we will surprise some teams this year,” he said. “While we may struggle at the beginning of the season, I think this team will mature, bond and grow so that by the mid-point of the season and beyond, we will be a tough team to compete against.”

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