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Young & Inexperiences

Young netters boast big numbers, little experince

Junior+Hally+Wilkins+returns+a+serve+during+the+dual+against+Ogallala.+This+is+Wilkin%27s+third+year+with+the+tennis+team.
Junior Hally Wilkins returns a serve during the dual against Ogallala. This is Wilkin's third year with the tennis team.

Junior Hally Wilkins returns a serve during the dual against Ogallala. This is Wilkin's third year with the tennis team.

Gordon Rock

Gordon Rock

Junior Hally Wilkins returns a serve during the dual against Ogallala. This is Wilkin's third year with the tennis team.

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Most sports teams rely on senior members with experience to set an example and help the rookies learn the ropes.

That’s not the case this year, however, for the tennis team, which is being led by only one returning senior.

“It’s kind of hard for me because there’s not a lot of people that I know really well on the team who are in my class, but it gives a lot of the younger girls an opportunity to play at a higher level. It’s really good for them and helps them improve,” senior Olivia Sheffield said.

One of the advantages of having varying spots on varsity is that it makes for a friendly competition amongst the team members and pushes the newbies to improve their game.

“It has been weird to have only one returning senior this year, but since we do have a younger team it has allowed girls to step up,” sophomore Taylor Klein said.

“Many of the new players have really shown improvement and have a desire to understand the strategies of tennis, as well as the desire to improve their form in groundstrokes, serves, and volleys,” Head Coach Cassie Behnke said.

Another asset that makes this year unique is the number of girls that are out.

“Twenty-nine is the exact number.  I have one senior, six juniors, 13 sophomores, and nine freshmen,” Behnke said.

However, there are varying advantages and disadvantages of having such a large team.

“The biggest advantage is the depth we have on our team. Having more girls gives us the opportunity to create a competitive environment for the players,” Behnke said.

“The clear disadvantage is the court space. Sixteen is the perfect number for the four courts we have, but we have found creative ways to distribute 29 people around that space,” she said.

One of the challenges that comes with any spring sport is the weather.

“It’s rough playing in bad weather,” junior Hally Wilkins said.

“We usually don’t have good weather for practice, so we’re used to it. But when it’s windy, it’s worse because the ball just blows back,” Wilkins said.

“Really harsh wind is the worst condition to play in, because when it’s cold, you can layer up and it’s not that bad. When you have wind, you don’t have as much control over the ball or where it goes,” Sheffield said.

“You definitely have to change your game and try different strategies. It can be kind of frustrating when you make an adjustment and it doesn’t work, but it’s how the game goes,” Sheffield said.

“The cold can be brutal, but what really ruins practice is snow and rain. Our courts become slippery when they get wet and are dangerous to play on,” Behnke said.

“We often come inside on those days for practice, but since we really don’t have an indoor facility for tennis we are limited in what we can do,” Behnke said.

As with any sport, success during the season partly comes from the preparation done offseason. That being said, various forms of offseason preparation take place.

“Darren, our assistant coach, has a league he does down in Mitchell at the indoor courts, so we go down there some days and practice. Some days when it’s nice out in preseason, Behnke opens up the shed so we can go hit. We have practice every Saturday, too,” Wilkins said.

“I personally did a lot of preparation in the offseason. I used the Volt app every day after school and went for runs. As a team, we got together a week before and did some conditioning,” Klein said.

Tennis requires a tough mentality and often times this determines a good game verses a bad one.

“Tennis is just a mental game. Once you get the basics and skills down, it’s mostly the mental part and not getting down or frustrated on yourself,” Sheffield said.

The ‘Cats face a challenging schedule as well.

“Kearney High is always a tough school to play.   McCook is a tough team and they are the defending state champions in class B,” Behnke said.

Behnke has been pleased  with the leadership demonstrated by the returning letterwinners.

“I love their leadership. They had really great examples their first year of tennis at Scottsbluff and I believe they wouldn’t be the team leaders they are without those examples,” Behnke said.

“Olivia is an excellent example. She has become more confident, and at our duel I saw a level of confidence that I have not seen before on the court. She was comfortable and understood what needed to be done to play at the level she was at,” Behnke said.

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