Big changes are in store this spring for the South Tama County girls tennis team and head coach Steve Bearden is waiting to see how they will impact his squad.
Those changes include changing conferences, refurbished courts and losing a handful of seniors, who played several of the top varsity spots. The impact of both has yet to be seen, but it will soon as the Trojans begin their season Tuesday afternoon at home against Oskaloosa.
"The weather has been great, so we've been outside every day since we started March 12," Bearden said. "I think we got rained out once. The girls have been coming out strong and I think they're ready to play somebody. You get into that practice mode, but you can similate those matches in practice. They're competitors, so I know they'll show up when the time comes."
The Trojans competed in the Little Hawkeye Conference through last year, but moved to the North Iowa Cedar League this year. Bearden said the Little Hawkeye was a tough conference, but he isn't sure what to expect from the teams in the NICL.
"We started out at the bottom, but we moved up and finished third last year," Bearden said. "We were three points out of first place.
"We moved to the NACL and I don't know where we stand," he said. "I think we'll be competitive and I think there are some strong teams in that league."
Another change, definitely for the better if you ask anyone around the program, is the refurbished tennis courts at the high school. The courts underwent construction during the late summer and fall.
The repairs were bid at $85,284. The courts had large cracking problems, but they were finished in the fall.
"It's like the same old courts, but patched and painted," Bearden said. "That's been a great improvement. The girls just have a better sense of pride about it. There are still spots here and there, but from where we were, this is a huge improvement."
The final adjustment to the new spring season is one that happens every year - dealing with the loss of a senior class. The 2011 graduating class was one that might take time to replace, but the Trojans coach is hoping it's a short amount of time.
STC graduated four of the top five varsity players from a year ago. Senior Kendra Bradley returns as the No. 1 player for the Trojans, after playing as the No. 2 girl last spring.
The squad has other seniors and some younger players that also played varsity matches a year ago that will be part of the mix this spring. The No. 2 and No. 3 players will most likely be sophomores, according to Bearden. The next two players will be seniors.
While in the Little Hawkeye, teams were able to have six singles players and five doubles teams, allowing many girls to play varsity and gain experience. However, the NICL allows only six singles and three doubles teams, which is what happens in postseason, but not as many girls will see varsity action as in past years.
The Trojans will host Oskaloosa at 4:15 p.m. today at home. It will be the first meet of the season.
"They've improved a lot," Bearden said of his players. "It's going to be interesting. We could do really well, but I woudn't be surprised if we have growing pains, too."