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Red Wing’s Solveig Christenson follows through on a forehand during practice Friday at Twin Bluff Middle School. The Wingers open the season Monday. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)
Red Wing’s Solveig Christenson follows through on a forehand during practice Friday at Twin Bluff Middle School. The Wingers open the season Monday. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

Girls Tennis: Wingers working out the kinks

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sports Red Wing, 55066

Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

After getting his feet wet as an assistant coach last season, new Red Wing girls tennis head coach Matt Kavanagh is ready to take the reins for the Wingers.

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And after working with the girls team last year, as well as working with some of the girls during tennis lessons in June and July, Kavanagh feels comfortable with the pieces Red Wing brings back in 2013.

“I’m familiar with them as individuals now,” Kavanagh said, “we just got to get them to jell together as a team.”

The Wingers, who went 10-9 overall and 3-4 in the Missota Conference under former head coach Randy Decker, open the season Monday at Pine City.

Though there was some familiarity, Red Wing’s tennis players were unsure on what Kavanagh would bring to the table.

“We all didn’t know what to expect with Matt,” said senior co-captain Serena Feehan. “I managed the boys team, so I saw what he did with them. I saw the beep test (a sprinting/conditioning drill), which we’re all kind of afraid of.”

But a calming presence for the girls has been Kavanagh’s communication with the team, listening to the girls’ suggestions for their tennis game.

“He’s been really good about asking our opinions and really listening to us and knowing how we want the team to be, too,” Feehan said.

Kavanagh added, “I want them to give me feedback on what they think their strengths and weaknesses are and what we can work on.”

Losing only four seniors from last year’s team, the Wingers return a strong core of players.

The problem is finding where to play everyone. 

“We had a scrimmage here (Thursday), and none of them had a lot of interest in singles,” Kavanagh said. “With the boys, we had that clear No. 1 player and could jell around that. Here, we have to make decisions every week. We’ll find out what works.”

For now, Red Wing is shuffling between three players – seniors Emily Stegora and Nicole Schammel, and sophomore Solveig Christenson – to play in No. 1 singles and doubles. Freshman Emily Otteson is also in the mix for one of the top singles spots.

In last year’s Section 1AA individual tournament, Stegora and Kelly made a run at the section’s doubles title before falling in the section finals.

“Playing singles will help with my doubles play,” said Stegora, the team’s other co-captain. “I do like having a teammate there (in doubles); it makes the match more fun and makes it go by faster. … We’ll do what we have to do.”

Along with the Stegora-Schammel-Christenson combination at No. 1 doubles, Feehan will head up the No. 2 doubles to give the Wingers a strong showing among their duos.

“An ideal partner for me, I look for someone who has a good forehand because my backhand is my strongest shot,” Feehan said. “The whole team I get along with, so it’s easy to play with any of them.”

Over the summer, Kavanagh had the goal of reducing unforced errors and getting improved play on the second serve.

“Once we get that sorted out, the rest of the game comes together when they get the rhythm going,” Kavanagh said. “It’s just the starting point they struggle with.”

With Monday’s meet looming, Red Wing is ready to sort out its lineup on the fly and get the season underway.

“I think it’s going to go pretty well for us this year,” Feehan said. “Most of the girls came back … and team chemistry’s really important. We all help each other get focused and get better.”

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