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Maconaquah girls tennis mixing youth, experience

SHUFFLE: Maconaquah will see big changes once again across its girls’ tennis lineup with four spots initially open in the varsity lineup ahead of the 2019 season. Alice Miller (Pictured) played at No. 3 singles last season and will be in contention to take over at No. 1 singles this season.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

For a second-straight year, Maconaquah will be trying to navigate the girls’ tennis season with by replacing more than half of the varsity squad.

The Braves, who finished 6-12 in 2018, found sledding tough outside the TRC, where the team finished 4-4 on the year.

Four players return with significant varsity experience for Maconaquah and head coach Brianna Manriquez said the group as a whole was in a better position to push forward in 2019.

“I felt like it was a good season last year and as a coach, I learned during the year what I needed to bring to the table to help the girls out,” Manriquez said. “The girls learned a lot for their tennis game but we also had a lot of conversations, teaching the girls how they’re supposed to act in public and on the court.

“The goal was to not only help each girl on her tennis game but as a person. We’ve talked to some about controlling some of the temper they might have had on the court and finding ways to redirect that anger into a positive force in their play.”

Senior Alice Miller returns after joining the squad last season, holding down the No. 3 singles spot throughout 2018, along with seniors Kaitlin Stapleton, who started at No. 1 doubles but missed a large chunk of the year due to injury, and Holly Householder, who did not play as a junior but had been on the squad prior.

Sophomores Brooke Borden and Trysta Gustafson return to the squad, having started 2018 as the No. 2 doubles pair before being split due to the injury to Stapleton, along with Melynda Smith and junior Chloe Hershberger, the latter having played in a few varsity singles matches last year.

“We’re looking at Alice and Brooke as our No. 1 and 2 singles players to start the year,” Manriquez noted. “Brooke, who played doubles last year and has moved to singles, made it clear she wanted to challenge Allice for the No. 1 position.

“Were looking at Kaitlin and Trysta to be one of our doubles teams and so far in practice, they’ve worked well together. Holly is back with us and we’re looking to find a doubles partner for her.

“Chloe is someone we’re looking at to fill in the No. 3 singles position while Melynda is another that will be playing singles this year but there are a lot of players that will be challenging for that spot,” Manriquez added. “There are a lot of young freshmen that are impressing me profusely and may well end up earning varsity spots.”

More than half of the squad is composed of incoming freshmen consisting of Averi Miller, Emma Warnock, Emma Moore, Hannah Montgomery, Lilly Nethercutt, Kyra Stouffer, Annie Isenburg and Rachel Ebby, a group Manriquez was very excited to have.

“We have to give kudos to our middle school tennis coach Patrick Redmon,” Manriquez said. “For many of these girls only playing in middle school and during the summer with coach (Mike) Saine, some of these girls have seen some crazy improvement.

“Annie’s forehands and backhands blow me away; she moves her feet well, she’s willing to put in the work to get better and she reminds me of Alice in the way she competes. Emma Warnock has great power in her serves and while she is a bit hit or miss, if we can get her to be consistent, she is going to be a powerhouse.

“Emma Moore is another player that, if we can get some more consistency in her forehands, wants to be in the lineup,” Manriquez added. “Those three girls all have the potential to be varsity players.

“Rachel is one that I’ve been watching and, working with Averi, they’ve both grown in general strength. We’re working with them on their volleys and they have both improved greatly.”

While the lineup was not yet set in stone, Manriquez said the group already had a similar build to last season in terms of where the strong suit of the team was but added the Braves needed more than just solid singles play to get wins over the line.

“Our hope is that we do better than we did last year,” Manriquez said. “Our singles play is going to be the strongest component of the team.

“Once we get the doubles teams figured out, we’re going to push them hard because we struggled in those spots last year. Figuring out who is going to be our No. 3 singles players is also a high priority for us.”

With only a minor schedule change in the cancellation of the Southwood Invitational and a possible replacement at Madison-Grant, Maconaquah will get several important conference matches at home.

Manriquez said the girls were more confident in their ability to do perform this season but knew they would have to solidify quickly to make strides as the season goes along.

“We always love to see the girls win but we also know we’re going to face some strong teams this year,” Manriquez said. “Peru has very strong singles players and with the strength of the rest of the conference, we want to at least be higher in the middle of the pack.

“We will get to play Peru and Manchester at home this year and hopefully the girls will be ready when we face them during the season and at sectional time.”