Lack of varsity experience may hurt Bulldogs
Although many players return from a year ago, the Baldwin High School girls' tennis team will be lacking varsity experience from its squad this fall.
Only one player, senior Marianne Schroer, saw valuable playing time on the varsity level last year. Schroer played No. 2 doubles for the Bulldogs a year ago.
Out of the 23 girls playing this fall, 16 were on the team last year. That experience just doesn't count varsity tournaments.
"We have a lot of returnees," assistant coach Justin Hoffman said. "We've got 16 girls back, which will really help us become a better team. But we've really only got one girl back that played No. 2 doubles. The ones who are back don't have a lot of varsity experience."
Despite the lack of varsity playing time on the team this year, Hoffman did say nine girls are battling for the six varsity spots. Those positions will be up for grabs during the first couple of tournaments.
"The nice thing is we have nine girls we think can play varsity for us," Hoffman said. "It will take the first few tournaments for us to really see who is ready to be one of the top six players."
The varsity Bulldogs begin next Thursday with a tournament at Topeka-Hayden. It will begin at 3 p.m. Since the lineup is undetermined yet, Hoffman is hoping the girls step up and show their talent during the next week.
"It will vary the first few tournaments," Hoffman said of the varsity lineup. "The first few tournaments will tell us who is ready to play at the varsity level right now. It will show us who is match ready, has their serves going and has their head in the right place."
Two players who are battling for the varsity positions are senior Kayla Knoll and Schroer. Both are ready to start the season.
"We have a short season, so it's nice to get going," Schroer said. "The weather is really hot right now, though. These past days have just been awful. The sweat drips in your eyes."
Knoll is ready to begin her senior campaign. She is happy with everyone's effort at practice and is looking forward to starting next week.
"I am really excited because we have a lot of strong players out this year," Knoll said. "I think we are going to have a really good team. Everyone is working hard and motivated this year."
The junior varsity Bulldogs actually start the season first. They play at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Mill Valley.
Hoffman also agreed about the weather. The Bulldogs practiced during the morning last week but are out in the afternoon heat since classes started Monday.
"It has been warm this week," Hoffman said. "It was pretty nice going in the morning last week."
Although the Bulldogs have been battling the heat, the players and coaches are pleased with the first week and a half of practices.
"Things have started off really well this season," Hoffman said. "I am encouraged by some of the newer players that have some existing skills and I am pleased that some of our returning players' skills haven't diminished over the summer break."
The Bulldogs have also done some conditioning early on, but Knoll said it wasn't any more than previous years.
"We've done the same amount that we've done the past couple of years," Knoll said. "It's enough to get us in shape."
The varsity Bulldogs host the Baldwin Invitational Sept. 12 at home.