The Hillsboro High School girls’ tennis team has one returning player who has competed at the state tournament, and that experience has the team motivated to send players to state again.
“We had a taste of how much fun it is to play in the state tournament last year,” coach Bob Woelk said. “I hope to return Allison Weber and take along more girls to the ‘big dance.’ I think it is a real possibility. This year we host regionals, and state will be in Hutchinson.”
Weber, a sophomore, went to the 2011 state tournament in doubles with teammate and older sister Courtney, who graduated in the spring. This year Woelk expects Weber to play singles. In limited action as a No. 2 singles player last year, she went undefeated with a record of 6-0.
The team’s doubles pairings will probably be some combination of seniors Erin Winter, Peyton Loewen, and Bailey Kaufman and sophomore Claire Heyen. Freshman Allison Gray is a possibility to play singles or doubles, Woelk said.
“We will just have to see how the early season challenges within the team shake out,” he said. “So far, most positions are wide open. I would prefer to settle in early so girls can have experience with a partner or as a singles player.”
Each player has her own strengths, Woelk said. He described Weber as super quick and able to cover a lot of the court. Her left-handed grip may also cause problems for players who are only used to practicing against righties.
Winter is the team’s hardest hitter. Woelk said when she keeps the ball in play and is aggressive, she is very tough. Loewen is quick and has consistently improved in skill in her four years playing tennis.
Gray has played a lot of recreational tennis, making her more skilled than freshmen usually are, Woelk said.
Kaufman and Heyen both show a lot of improvement from their first year on the team.
Other team members are sophomore Lea Davidson and freshman Hannah Funk. Woelk said Davidson is new to tennis but shows promise. Funk has participated in summer tennis for several years.
Woelk is counting on the three seniors to provide leadership and set a good example for the younger players.
“These girls know how to have fun,” he said. “Can they get serious when they need to be? How far they get this year will be determined by how far they want to go.”
The season begins at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday with the Hillsboro Invitational. Hillsboro will host another meet Sept. 20.
“I think this will be a fun team to watch,” Woelk said. “The girls like each other, and that makes them fun to coach. I think our level of play, though always competitive, will take a step up this year. I look for good things from this group of girls.”