Almost all high school teams in all sports tend to rely upon leadership from their seniors and other veteran players. However, for the Greencastle girls' tennis team, that reliance will be especially strong this year, as the uncommonly cold weather this spring has left them with little practice time on the court.
"It has put us behind on organizing ourselves as far as knowing ourselves and getting a lot of playing time with a doubles partner because I'm still trying to play challenge matches to determine the top seven. That leaves it kind of tough," coach Trish Lowe said.
Lowe has really only had her doubles teams together since last Thursday. This is not promising considering the Tiger Cubs open their season tonight against county rival South Putnam.
Fortunately for Lowe, she has five seniors, all of whom are returning varsity players.
"All five are returning letter winners, which makes it easier to fill up or varsity seven spots," the coach said.
Lowe also fields five juniors who also all played tennis last season.
She will rely on these veterans, as they will be playing, at times, in unfamiliar positions with unfamiliar partners. Lowe hopes this will lead to poise as her team deals with the unfamiliarity.
"Thank goodness they're upperclassmen and they've been in those positions before. I think two people are going to switch from singles players to doubles players. Hopefully the mental aspect of that won't be too overwhelming, " Lowe said.
Of the five returning seniors, only Kelsey Hennette had her position for certain as of late last week. Hennette will play No. 1 singles for the third consecutive year.
Hennette will be joined by fellow seniors Carol LaFoe, Savannah Provine, Kristen Flint and Emma Kaiser.
From the lower classes, GHS has five sophomores and six freshmen. Lowe feels she has some strong players in her younger group as well. While not all came in with a lot of experience, they seem to have picked things up well.
"This is probably one of our strongest starting years where we didn't just have to start at the very beginning," Lowe said. "Two of the six freshmen had played some before, and then the other kids, we had to do some teaching. However, they have picked up pretty quickly, so I'm happy with that."
The Cubs have no problems with numbers, except that they have too many players with too few courts and positions.
"We have 21 total kids, which is really too many. You have six courts and seven kids get to play varsity," the coach commented. "They're all doing what we ask them to and working hard. Hopefully, they'll get some matches in against some opponents that have some bigger teams."
As the season begins, Lowe would like to improve on a strong 2007 season.
"Last year we finished 12-5, so hopefully this year we can match or better that. We are in the same sectional and I think the same teams that were strong last year to be strong this year," Lowe said.
The Tiger Cubs finished second to Northview at sectional last year, and the Knights are one of the big rivals the coach aims for again this year, as well as North Montgomery and Crawfords-ville.
And there is always conference play to be considered. With only three tennis teams in the WCC, the outcome is determined fairly early. GHS opens at South Putnam at 4:30 p.m. today and plays Speedway on April 21.
Early in the year, though, it will all come back to the weather. Things may be warmer now, but that practice time won't come back. Lowe has just made the best of it.
"This has probably been our worst outdoor season in my 18 years of coaching tennis. I don't recall a season in which we had this many indoor practices," Lowe said. "We've taken advantage of those. We've been in the weight room. We're in good condition. If nothing else, we're in good condition."