The Newton girls tennis team is coming off a campaign in which they saw heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss. The 2012 season had its share of ups and downs, but the most important lessons are often learned through experience, which is why last year’s frustrations have the potential to turn into this year’s successes.
With 20 juniors and seniors returning to the team from last year, it’s easy to see why expectations are high within the program. Virtually all the top performers return for the Cardinals, and coach Erick Zehr knows that the team’s biggest challenge may be just bringing full effort to each match.
“When we set expectations, we always try to be realistic. With that being said, my expectations for us this season are pretty high. I do have high goals for our girls. First and foremost, I want us to compete. Every match, every day I just want us out there competing as hard as we can to get wins,” Zehr said. “We want to be as competitive as possible. I’d like us to be able to contend for a conference title this season. That is always a goal for us, but this year our eyes are really set on that conference title.”
The team saw strides in their players throughout last season, and although their year ultimately ended at regionals against West Des Moines Dowling Catholic 5-1, the team gained valuable experience through adversity. The returning seniors should be able to use that experience to their advantage when they take to the court this year. Coach Zehr knows his seniors will be competitive during the season, and the players coming up from JV should add some ability to an already seasoned team.
“We only lost one senior from last year’s team, so we basically have the same group of girls coming back along with a nice group of players coming up from the junior varsity squad,” Zehr said. “Our number one singles player at the end of last year was Katelyn Camp, she is a senior this year. Our number two was Katelin Klyn, she’s also a senior now. Holly Vander Pol is one girl who really took her game seriously going into the offseason. She took some lessons over the course of last summer, and she has gotten a lot better since then. We have those two seniors along with a third in Krystal Mapes that we are counting on for wins throughout the year. We also have some sophomores that we are very excited about, and we think that we’ll be able to get good wins out of that class of players as well. Caitlin Combs in particular, is a girl we’re excited about.”
The toughest part of the offseason for the Cardinals is that it cut into what should be the start of their season. The extended winter weather has kept the team off the court for longer than usual, and it could take some adjusting to start the year.
“The weather has really hurt us this year,” Zehr said. “We’re basically two weeks behind other schools that are able to access indoor facilities. So, we are just trying to get caught up at the moment.”
Even so, the team still will face high expectations from outside sources as well as themselves. The veteran team is expected to make a run at the Little Hawkeye Conference crown, and Zehr wants to make sure they show up for every match.
“The biggest challenge we face coming into the season is the pressure we put on ourselves. We have a lot of returning players this year, coming off a year when we lost some frustrating matches. That experience is something we’re counting on to help us improve. So expectations are high in that respect,” Zehr said. “Overall, though I just want us competing. I don’t want us to take any day, any match off. As long as we compete to the best of our ability, I will be happy. With our experience, we know people will be coming at us. We know we’re looked at as a team with a target on our back. We are going to get every team’s best shot, and we embrace that.”