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Good turnout continues rise of EHS girls tennis program

Megan Stress is the lone senior on the EHS girls' tennis team this fall.2 / 2

They play in no home meets. Their practice courts are limited in number and decrepit in shape.

But that hasn't stopped the Ellsworth High School girls' tennis program from continued growth in head coach Dylan Greske's fourth season.

The Panthers have 25 girls on the roster, numbers not seen since the turn of the decade. And they're joining a program which went 6-10-1 last season. Although EHS was 1-6 in the Middle Border Conference, the Panthers lost three close dual meets which could have easily been wins.

"I'm very eagar to see us go out and compete against Durand, Mondovi, Bloomer, Unity and Osceola," Greske said. "I think we match up well with them and hopefully we can turn some of those close losses into wins."

Ellsworth also has a much more active schedule, starting today with a quadrangular at Baldwin-Woodville. Their JV players took part in a meet in Osceola today as well and the varsity will be in Osceola for a tournament on Wednesday. EHS also has weekend meets this fall in Phillips and the annual B-W Invite.

"I've been working with the athletic department and with other coaches to get our players in as many meets a possible this season."

This is the strategy, not just because Ellsworth has a large team but also a young squad too. Eighteen of the players on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. Returning letter winner Megan Stress is the lone senior. Also back are letter winners such as junior Kendra Thoen, junior Alexis Linder, junior Mariah Vogel, and sophomores Allyson Stoetzel, Andrea Roper and Marissa Schumaker.

Stoetzel and Thoen placed third in the MBC meet as a doubles team while Vogel played No. 4 singles. Linder and Schumaker both played doubles last season but their respective parteners, Rochelle Sweig and Kenzie Anderson both have graduated along with No. 1 singles player Jordan Olson, who finished fifth in the conference meet and qualified for sectionals, Kalli Schaar and Brianna Davis.

"The line-up right now is pretty wide open," Greske said. "Megan will move from No. 2 to No. 1 in singles but Marissa and Alexis both lost their senior doubles partners so that means we have to use these early meets to find the right doubles combinations and singles players to send to our first league meet (next Tuesday at Amery). I like the fact we have these early meets to do this so we can see where all of our players are at in terms of their skills and development."  

Having such a large team does present diffrerent challenges than just having barely enough kids to have a team at all. But Greske said they're nice problems to have.

"Obviously we have limited practice space and getting the all girls matches and personal instruction throughout the season will be challenging," Greske said. "I'm thankful Jon Claesson is on the coaching staff helping us out and upperclassmen like Megan and Alexis for example, have taken leadership roles on the team. They help with practices and they organized captain's practices over the summer which were well attended. Everyone is starting out with some time in on the courts before the season even officially started. Right now we're trying to teach the fundamentals of playing in a match and the knowledge of how to play to those who don't have such experience before these first couple of meets."

In spite of the different challenges the Panthers face this season, Greske hopes one important aspect still remains whether there's 10 girls on the team or 25.

"We still want to keep tennis a fun and exciting experience," Greske said. "More than anything that's what has helped us bring out so many new faces because they've heard that tennis a fun sport and this is a great team to be a part of. If we can keep this aspect while trying to make sure our players' individual tennis needs are met, then we can continue to not only grow but prosper as well."

Greske see Baldwin-Woodville and New Richmond as the top teams in the MBC this season.