Girls Tennis: Familiarity key to Red Wing's success
One year ago, Doug Toivonen and Drew Olinger took the reins of the Red Wing girls' tennis team by sharing head coaching duties. This year, with a full season behind them, they hope to turn that experience into a more competitive and successful team.
The Wingers have a solid group of girls with its No. 1 and 2 singles players from last year (Chloe Struss and Graci Bettich) as well as one of its No. 1 doubles players (Mya Benway) returning.
"At the top of our lineup we have some kids coming back," Toivonen said. "We're a work in progress and obviously still have a lot to do but the girls have great attitudes and put some time in in the summer so we are hoping that we can be competitive in as many matches as we can."
Any success the Wingers achieve will hinge not only on those returning, but also the improved familiarity between coaches and players.
Last season, Toivonen and Olinger didn't know the girls very well and the team had its first match five days into the season. Neither coach knew exactly where everyone would fit in and it lead to a rocky start. A year later, both coaches are aware of the team's capabilities and strengths, and they hope to turn that into more early-season success.
That familiarity with the team will come in handy, too, as the team is tasked with its first match on Friday.
"You'd like to think that the girls have been playing up until the season started, so playing a match on Friday isn't going to be a very big deal," Toivonen said. "It's very different than the boys where we had three weeks last (spring) before we were even able to get outside."
Although the weather allows for practice before the girls' tennis season begins, there is still the need to change the players' mindsets.
"It's nerve-wracking because you don't get a lot of practice in," Benway said about the team's first match after four days of practice. "Summer was chill but now it's more serious."
Knowing that Benway was the top doubles player and Struss and Bettich alternated time at No. 1 singles last year, it helps to know where a portion of the roster may find a spot early in the season. But Toivonen and Olinger will quickly learn where everyone will fit in because after Friday's home meet against Cannon Falls, the team hosts Ellsworth on Monday and then a triangular on Tuesday.
"I think for most high school kids they would say they want to start early, especially in this sport," Toivonen said. "Let's just go out there and play and see where we are at."