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TENNIS: Serving up some tennis -- Southwest Conference teams ready for 2012 campaign

Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Worthington Trojans girl's tennis returning letter winners. Front, from left: Elizabeth Luke (12th grade), Rachel Drietz (11), Emily Williamson (10), Kate Lesnar (12) and Annie Lesnar (10). Back, from left: Laura Wetering (11), Sarah Janssen (11), Makensie Carstensen (11), Kirsten Aljets (12), Ashley Jansma (11) and Brianna Kempema (10).

WORTHINGTON -- After 18 years of coaching tennis, Worthington Trojans girl's tennis head coach Mike Marquardt knows what it takes to succeed.

"It always comes down to putting in the time," Marquardt said. "There is only so much you can do in practice, so going to camps and playing in the summer is a must. Sometimes that means you have to practice instead of going out to have fun."

Another thing that might lead to success for the Trojans this season is the new tennis courts at the middle school. Even though the courts were in place in time for the boy's varsity tennis team last spring, the girls have yet to get the chance to play on the new surface.

"It definitely gives us more of a home court advantage now that our full team can play in one spot," Marquardt said. "We can play more matches and can get almost all of our 30 players playing at once. It should add motivation for the girls and help them stay focused."

With only one player not returning to this year's varsity squad, the Trojans are not lacking in experience or leadership. However, that does mean there is only one open spot up for grabs on the varsity team.

"We only lost one varsity member and one on junior varsity," Marquardt said. "We did great on returns this year. There are five or six girls who could have a break out year. It will just depend on how the year goes."

Three players Marquardt feels could have a break out year include senior Kirsten Aljets as well as juniors Sarah Janssen and Ashley Jansma. The Trojans will need those players, along with others, to step up this year if they hope to improve on the teams 3-13 record from last season.

"They are a great bunch of girls," Marquardt said. "They are always willing to put in the time needed to get better."

One of the areas Marquardt always has his teams work on is their serving as well as their ability to hit finishing shots.

"How you serve is how you play," Marquardt said. "And you always need to know how to finish. So we need to work more on how we start a match and how we end it."

This year, the Trojans are making the move up to 2AA where the competition will be even stiffer than last season. But Marquardt feels that the experience his team gained last year while playing in the Southwest Conference will go a long way to keeping the Trojans competitive.

"We will be facing better competition this year after we got bumped up to 2AA," Marquardt said. "It just means we will have to put the work in to get better. Our big goal is to improve every match and make sure we are making the right kinds of gains."

The Trojans kick off the 2012 season today with a match against Sleepy Eye at 4:30 p.m. at the new tennis courts at Worthington Middle School.

Luverne looks for third straight conference title

LUVERNE -- For two seasons in a row, the Luverne Cardinals girl's tennis team has claimed the Southwest Conference title.

However, two conference titles aren't enough for Cardinals head coach Greg Antoine. One of his main goals for this year is to change that two into a three.

"We have won the conference two years in a row," Antoine said, "and that is one of our goals again, to win the conference and to make it three years in a row."

This year, the Cardinals have five seniors who are returning from the 2011 team. Antoine hopes that his senior class can lead by experience and help his team stay competitive throughout the year.

One problem area Antoine can see is the fact that all his seniors played singles last year. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but it doesn't leave a lot of room for younger players to gain experience playing singles.

"All of our seniors are singles players, so this year we are going to have to use a couple of them in doubles so we can get our underclassmen some singles experience for next year," Antoine said.

Another problem Antoine sees on the horizon is the fact that after his returning player from last year, there are not a lot of girls who have much experience at the varsity level.

"We aren't as deep as we have been in the past," Antoine said. "So we are going to see some rough spots early in the year and hopefully gain some momentum as the season progresses."

The Cardinals play Sibley East, Saint James and Maple River in doubles on Aug. 22 beginning at 9 a.m. in Saint James.

Pipestone Area starts season Aug. 25

PIPESTONE -- The Pipestone Area Arrows girl's tennis team ended last season with a 7-0 lose to the Saint James Saints who went on to win the Section 3A title.

The Arrows can only hope they continue to play well this season and make a deeper run in the playoffs.

Pipestone Area starts its season on Aug. 25 when they travel to Worthington for the Worthington girl's tennis invite to take on the Luverne Cardinals at 3 p.m.