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Ellsworth netters to show improvement in 2013

The wins have been very few for the Ellsworth High school girls' tennis team over the past three seasons.

But that isn't stopping the Panther netter squad from feeling excited over the 2013 season and for good reason.

EHS only graduated one senior in Stacie Peterson from last season's 1-8 squad (0-7 in the Middle Border Conference). There are seven returning letter winners and the team showed signs of improvement towards the end of last season, including a 4-3 win over Bloomer which was the program's first in 15 dual meets. They still haven't won a conference meet since beating Unity/Luck in 2009 but third-year head coach Dylan Greske believes the team will be ready to break this streak as well.

"I think we're in a position to able to compete with half the league's teams now," Greske said. "We have experience and we more depth as our numbers are up from a year ago. This is the biggest team we’ve had in three seasons. The kids are still learning but they're starting to gain confidence and with it they're becoming more aggressive in their play.”

Greske lauded the team’s returning letter winners, including seniors Jordan Olson, Kali Schaar, Rochelle Sweig, junior Megan Stress and sophomores Kendra Thoen, Mariah Vogel and Alexis Linder for organizing teams practices two to three times a week and other get-togethers over the summer. Greske said the improvement has been obvious.

“Their overall movement is better, their footwork is smoother and their court awareness has gained as well,” Greske said. “The older girls are helping the younger ones and the ones without much tennis experience in practice and they’re being the kind of leaders who our younger players can emulate and look up to as an example. It’s a credit to them they’ve made things so much easier now that we can do more work in practice to get better and it’s going to benefit us down the road.”

 Actually, it’s already benefitting them at the top of the road. Ellsworth began its season in a quad meet yesterday at Baldwin-Woodville and went 1-2. EHS notched its first dual meet win by routing Bloomer 7-0 and lost to Barron by a very close 4-3 score (they also lost to B-W 7-0).

 Singles players Olson, Stress and freshman Marissa Schumaker went 2-1 for the day at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 singles spot. Sweig will be at No. 3 singles. While the doubles team situation remains fluid, getting wins yesterday in Baldwin were the No 1 team of Schaar and Linder; the No. 2 team of Thoen and senior Kenzie Anderson and the No. 3 team of Vogel and senior Brieanna Davis.

“We want to keep as many of our upperclassmen in singles to give us the best chances of winning each dual meet and find players who work well together for our doubles teams,” Greske said.

This new confidence has allowed Ellsworth to expand its schedule. Besides the Quad meet at B-W, Ellsworth will also take part in a triangular this weekend at Unity against Unity/Luck and Hurley. They’ll also compete against Lake City in the non-conference portion of the schedule this upcoming Tuesday before MBC play begins after Labor Day. Greske tabs Baldwin-Woodville as the league’s preseason favorite.

 It’s never going to be easy for Ellsworth to be competitive in tennis (boys or girls) given Panthers have to be on the road for every meet. But Greske said the girls have done a lot to make themselves into a better team.

 “They’ve worked hard in the offseason and we have to continue to do so now that the season is here, Greske said. “If we keep at it we’ll keep improving.”