A bounty of returning experience and senior leadership has the Hutchinson girls tennis team feeling confident going into the 2019 season. The Tigers are hopeful that will lead to more wins on the court.
What that court will look like remains to be seen, literally. Hutchinson’s current home courts are under construction and won’t be available for the first few weeks of the season. In the meantime, the Tigers are practicing at Glencoe-Silver Lake to prepare for the season.
“Our girls are really excited, as we all are, to have new courts in town,” head coach Todd Card said. “It’s been a long time coming, so we’re excited to have that. We’ll be ready when the time comes … they’ll adjust to (the courts) as we get going.”
Gone from the courts will be the grass mounds where fans could sit to view matches. Instead, bleachers will take their place. For the players, it will mean playing on a full slate of courts without the cracks and peeling that had plagued the surface in recent years. The end of the project conflicts with several home matches, which could force some relocating or rescheduling in the opening weeks.
Wherever they play, the Tigers will be led by a strong group of returning players, including captains Meredith Girard, Sabrina Tracy, Haley Knorr and Britta Johnson.
Girard and Tracy teamed up at the No. 1 doubles spot last year. The duo helped Hutchinson reach the Section 2AA semifinals at Gustavus Adolphus College, where it was swept by Prior Lake.
“I think everyone’s goal as a team is to make it to Gustavus,” Girard said, “but a goal individually I have is to, honestly, have fun this last year and try my best and have fun with whoever my doubles partner is.”
Knorr and Johnson were Hutch’s top singles players and joined forces as a team for the section doubles tournament. After finishing fourth in 2017, they improved to third place last season. This year, Knorr hopes to keep improving during her senior season.
“I would love to partner up with Britta one more time and hopefully make a state run,” she said, “but we’ll see.”
Alex Hantge returns after holding down the No. 3 singles spot last year. The No. 2 doubles duo of Maggie Eckhart and Ellie Peterson is also back, as is No. 3 doubles player Paige Telecky.
“We’re super excited,” Card said. “We only lost two starters from last year, so we feel that we got people that are certainly capable of stepping in and filling those spots. It’ll be very competitive to try to fill those, and we think we’ve got a great shot to compete at a high level this year.”
Who will step up or challenge returning players is to be determined, but Tracy sees some potential in her fellow upperclassmen.
“We do have some new younger kids, but that junior class, I think, is a really big piece of our team,” she said.
Two new teams were added to the Section 2AA field, as it expanded from 15 to 17 teams. Joining the field this season is Jordan and St. Peter.
Hutchinson finished second in the Wright County Conference East last season with a 3-1 record, its only loss against Orono. Knorr and the Tigers know where one of their biggest challenges sits as they pursue their first conference title since 2004.
“We really want to beat Orono every year,” she said. “We have a good shot at winning the conference title, we just got to … always be ready to compete when we’re playing those big schools.”