Despite losing a handful of seniors from the 2012 roster and only one outdoor practice this spring, the South Tama County girls' tennis squad has begun its season.
Cold, winter weather has affected all spring sports and the Lady Trojans tennis team is a prime example. After two weeks of practicing inside the STC elementary school gymnasium, the Lady Trojans headed outside last Wednesday for the first time all spring. Then they started their spring break on Thursday and didn't hold official practices before they were scheduled to start their season Tuesday at Oskaloosa.
"I've had people ask me how we're going to be this year," coach Steve Bearden said. "My only response is 'I'll know more after Tuesday.'"
Much like the STC soccer teams, the girls' tennis squad delayed starting its season because of the temperatures and occasional snow during March. Once the Lady Trojans started, they were inside the elementary gym trying to work on the fundamentals.
The Lady Trojans took a volleyball net and flipped it upside-down. That became their make-shift tennis net, which allowed them to work on their basics. However, the gym wasn't conducive for practicing their serving or hitting, but they made the best of what they had to use in the gym.
"We did a lot of footwork drills and a lot of movement," Bearden said. "It wasn't actually a bad thing. Honestly, in the past, I think it was one of our strengths so I'm not one to always focus on that. So it made me focus on that this year, which is a good thing. We also did a lot of net work. We also went over scoring, rules and stuff like that."
Last week's weather warmed up enough for the tennis team to head outdoors and practice on the STC courts. It was their happiest practice of the season.
"Last night was actually the first night we were outside," Bearden said Thursday. "It's been the temperature that's kept us inside. We probably could have gone out and the girls were anxious to go out, but I held them off. I didn't want them to snap the strings on their racquets. I mean it felt good at 33 or 34 degrees, but I knew we couldn't be out there very long if we were out there.
"Last night we spread out and actually got to hit on the real courts," he said. "So we feel like we're behind a bit, but I think many schools are in the same boat. I really just let them hit a lot last night. We didn't do much structured stuff. We just hit."
The Lady Trojans have 24 girls out for tennis this spring. They are led by a large junior class that's full of experience. The juniors comprise nearly half of the roster with 11 players.
South Tama's top three players come back as juniors after playing varsity last year. Emily Martin and Madison Baack played the No. 2 and No. 3 singles a year ago as sophomores behind 2012 graduate Kendra Bradley. This spring, they will be the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players. Martin won the Flight No. 2 singles championship at the North Iowa Cedar League tournament last year.
Martin and Baack will also team up as a doubles team this spring. Last year, they won the Flight No. 2 doubles NICL title. This year, they will be the No. 1 doubles team for South Tama.
The Lady Trojans' No. 3 singles player is Tori Appelgate. She finished the 2012 season as the No. 6 singles player. The other three girls expected to begin the season on varsity are junior Regina Balderas, junior Caitlin Svacina and junior Taylor Muhlstein. Senior Leah Mann, senior Natasha Musgrave, junior Ali Vavra and junior Mollie Morgan are also expected to compete for varsity playing time.
"Those girls have some doubles experience at varsity and Caitlin has some singles experience at varsity," Bearden said. "It will be interesting to see how they work into it.
"Our top three have a lot of experience," he said. "They're only juniors, but they played a lot as sophomores last year. So we'll be heavy at the top. Our four, five and six may change throughout the year. We'll see how we fill in those spots."
South Tama will be playing at home next Monday and Friday against Marion and AGWSR. Each dual will start at 4:15 p.m.