NEWTON — Newton Cardinal tennis teams are looking for different things in 2014.
The Cardinal girls are ready to build on a tremendous 2013 season which included the Little Hawkeye regular-season and tournament championships, regional match wins, and a doubles team qualifying for state.
For the Cardinal boys, it’s a season of hitting the re-start button with a new head coach and a look to better outcomes than a year ago.
Newton’s tennis teams hit the courts for their first competitions on Tuesday. The girls are at home against Marshalltown while the boys go to Marshalltown.
In tennis competitions, there are six singles matches and five double matches. Singles players are paired for doubles matches with additional players to play doubles for each team.
Four varsity players return for the Cardinal girls. Seniors Jennifer Ventling, Holly VanderPol and Monica Corso and junior McKenna Heidorffer played for the Cardinal varsity a year ago. Ventling and VanderPol claimed second in doubles at the regional tournament last year, qualifying for state. The two were just the fifth and sixth players from Newton to advance to a state tournament in tennis.
“Jennifer and Holly will lead us as our captains. Monica and McKenna will help solidify our limited experience,” said Erick Zehr, who is in his fourth season as the girls’ tennis head coach. “Our ‘ladder’ is constantly changing as we go through practices and begin the season. Nothing is set yet.”
Zehr said the four returners will play both singles and doubles for the Cardinals at some point in the season, if not throughout. He said the team has a lot of new faces, including Maria Valbuena, an foreign exchange student from Columbia who is talented enough to step in and contribute right away.
Sierra Griffith, a sophomore, and junior Marias Modlin have shown dramatic improvement since last year and will figure into the varsity team picture, Zehr said. He said both players spent considerable time in the off-season developing their skills.
“The best way to describe the makeup of the team currently is a host of opportunities,” Zehr said. “There are vacancies to fill everywhere, and a number of people qualified to step in. The curse of losing so many players is the uncertainty it creates and the need to rely on players short on experience. The blessing in disguise, however, is that it creates a whole host of competitive opportunities for people to take advantage of.”
Zehr said the question remaining to be answered is who will rise to the occasion and seize the responsibility. He said the team needs six girls to step out and play singles matches, and five pairs to step out and play doubles matches.
Zehr said there are several Newton junior varsity players back who look poised to step in, but the freshman class is very talented. He said what the freshmen lack in experience, they make up for in athleticism.”
“It will be a very interesting season to follow,” Zehr said. “So much remains to be determined since our turnover was so great. There is a wide range of possibilities regarding this team’s performance, and only time will tell. We’re excited about the season getting under way.”
Other members of the Newton girls’ tennis team are seniors Sara Van Dalen, Morgan Mettler, Kayla Corso, and Samantha Cooling; juniors Melanie Stice, Halie Owens, Sonja Newsome, and Brenda Becerra; sophomores Kate Wyre, Stacie Sanger, Elizabeth Myers, Madison Humphrey, Mariah Gonzales, Brianna Fuller, Samantha Cutts, and Cierra Armstrong; and freshmen Megan Van Dalen, Katherine Thorpe, Jordyn Soule, Hayley Sinclair, Megan Pressgrove, Kimbra Neal, Morgan Modlin, Emma Meyer, Eliie Horn, Alexis Fehring, Tessa Delong, and Dakota Armstrong.
Starting with a clean slate under a new coach, Newton’s boys look to put last year behind them and move forward. Returning to the courts for the Cardinals are seniors Ben Van Dalen, Brendan Brown, Brian Jones, Alex Cron and Chas Antle, and juniors Austen Van Brogen and Jarred Griffin.
Nick Hoskins, a 2008 graduate from Newton Senior High School and former NHS tennis player, takes over as the Cardinal head coach. Two years ago Hoskins helped with the NHS girls’ team. He also has been an assistant coach for the Cardinal football program, working with the freshman team.
“We have 18 out this year and we’re working on finding the right combination of players for the varsity matches. Our ladder is wide open as we approach the start of the season,” Hoskins said.
He said the strength of the 2014 boys’ tennis will be the doubles teams. Hoskins said the Cardinals are working on finding consistency across the board, especially in the doubles competition.
Others on the NHS boys’ team are Justin Pittman, Austin Wyre, Jon Viteik, Austin St. John, Joe Stammeyer, Beryce Romick, Sean Richardson, Reid Miller, Zach Coy, Kieran Brown and Liam Briggs.