Boys Tennis: Wingers looking for season-long improvement
Less than two months after accepting the head coaching job, Doug Toivonen was walking around the tennis courts trying to corral players for introductions before Red Wing kicked off the season against Northfield.
It's not an unfamiliar scenario for Toivonen, who patrolled the sidelines for 12 seasons for the Wingers’ boys’ basketball. But along with Drew Olinger, who took over for Toivonen in the winter and will be co-head coach with Toivonen for the tennis team, there will be a feeling-out process.
“Drew and I got together, and we decided that if we could do it together and help each other out, we would,” Toivonen said. “We're both in the same situation in that our backgrounds are both more basketball than tennis, but we do have some tennis knowledge.”
The program may not have found a tennis coach, per se, but it did find two people who understand coaching and know that it's the right thing to do for the school and community.
“Following tennis with my kids in it over the years, and knowing a lot of these guys, knowing there's really good kids, I want to try and help them as much as I can,” Toivonen said.
Perhaps the most complicated issue for Toivonen and Olinger, beyond the finer points of the game, is how to ensure there are kids to coach in the next few seasons. Seniors Ben Schaffer, Konnor Brickey and Brad Roberts were in the opening day lineup, along with juniors Logan Johnson, Prince Montcho, Calvin Harper, Lincoln Bryan, Jack Nevitt and Coby Castner. Two other juniors, a freshman and two eighth-graders round out the varsity roster, making this season and next pivotal in establishing a future.
“We're at 22 right now, but we'd really like to get more, especially younger kids. We have three strong seniors and four or five juniors, but we want to make sure we keep getting those seventh- and eighth-graders coming out,” Toivonen said.
With growth in mind, a little time to evaluate, Toivonen said he does not have specific goals in mind for the team. At least not right away.
“We're just going to be as competitive as we can be, have some fun, and hopefully, like all of our sports, be better at the end,” Toivonen said. “Tennis is such a short season, and we've only been together for a week-and-a-half.
“As first-year coaches, we just need to watch kids play a few times, get some more knowledge of their games And then we'll go from there.”
Northfield 7, Red Wing 0
Red Wing's Ben Schafer battled Christoph Zweifel in a tight first set, but the Winger eventually fell 7-5, 6-0 in the top match in Red Wing's season-opening 7-0 loss to Northfield on Thursday.
Schafer was the only Winger to win more than one game as the Raiders swept three of the seven duals.
Red Wing (0-1) will hit the road on Tuesday to face Albert Lea.