SYRACUSE – It seems as if things are finally coming together for the Wawasee girls tennis team.
Entering the 2014 season the program saw a huge turnout for tryouts and will boast one of its larger rosters in the past few seasons. But perhaps the most important thing the team has going for it this season is familiarity.
The team only graduated two seniors off of last year’s roster returns some of its top performers from last season. Also, the Warriors will have their coach, Chris Winters, returning for her second season. Last season Winters came in as the third coach of the girls program in as many years, so the stability is a big addition to this year’s team.
“Things have definitely felt more comfortable this year,” said Winters. “There seems to be more consistency, especially with expectations. Coming in last year and not knowing about some of the out of conference teams made it difficult at times but this season I know what to expect and so do the girls.”
Winters has certainly done something right in her short time as the helm of the program as there was a large number of freshman that came out for the team as well as upperclassmen that came out.
“We’ve got a new crop of freshmen and sophomores,” Winters stated. “We are really excited about that, it’s good to see the younger girls coming out for the team. A few of them are probably going to take some varsity spots. We also had a group of girls come out this year that could’ve come out last year, but didn’t. I think that says something about some excitement growing in the program.”
The varsity team will have some new faces making waves this season but will ultimately rely on the junior class and lone senior Katy Ashpole.
While Ashpole has held her own in recent season, the team will need more than her talents if it wants to break a 17-game losing skid in the always challenging Northern Lakes Conference. That is where the junior class will come into play.
The class that could be the saving grace for the program over the next two seasons already took a hit this off-season as Molly Smith went down with a shoulder injury last week and is expected to miss the entire season. Jada Antonides and Natalie Fritz are two of the other big names amongst the juniors and both played well on doubles teams in 2013.
Antonides says she thinks the team can make some noise this season but knows this season will be about building more than anything.
“We want to work hard and I want to make sure I am helping other girls on the team,” Antonides said. “But I think building relationships with the girls this year is really important and we have such a good group to build around.”
Antonides does not know what the end result of this year will be, but she knows she and her teammates will enjoy the ride.
“This really is a close team and it’s because of the girls we have,” said Antonides with a smile. “They are so much fun and I just love being around them.
“Natalie (Fritz) is definitely our goof ball, she always make us smile. If we are having a bad practice or just a bad day, we can always count on her to say something to make us laugh. She really brings the team closer because she can be goofy but she knows how to be serious too. Then we have Katy (Ashpole) and she is our rock, we all know we can lean on her and go to her for anything and she will always help us out.”
Both Winters and Antonides spoke about team goals this season and while nothing has been set in stone, both know the team has the ability to pick up and NLC win and improve upon last year’s overall 5-9 record.
Wawasee will start its 2014 campaign on Thursday at Central Noble with play set to begin at 4:40 p.m., weather permitting.