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Girls tennis: Luverne, Pipestone Area dust off the rackets


LUVERNE — Don’t blink. The 2014 fall sports schedule is upon us.

Luverne and Pipestone Area serve up the beginning of regular season girls tennis Saturday as the Cardinals are scheduled to host Lac Qui Parle Valley and the Arrows travel to Madison, S.D. Both teams bring some experience with them into the new campaign, and that has both head coaches feeling optimistic.

Optimism is easy for Luverne, which posted an 11-7 overall record in 2013 and a 5-0 record in the Southwest Conference. Alas, the Southwest Conference is a thing of the past, and now it’s the Big South Conference, featuring former Southwest and South Central conferences. Nevertheless, LHS head coach Greg Antoine says his girls are ready to go at it.

“We’re fairly set,” he said this week.

Leading the charge will be senior Kynzie Smedsrud, who played No. 2 singles a year ago but figures to hold down the No. 1 singles spot this fall. Seniors Monaya Hustoft and Lexi Severtson and freshman Samanatha Pierce are expected to vie for other singles positions. Senior Mckenzi Wenninger, who played singles last year, may team with senior Danielle Kneip at No. 1 doubles. Junior Tatiana Gust and freshman Joci Oye are also experienced players.

Luverne graduated last year’s No. 1 singles player, Paige Adams, but with plenty of experience returning Antoine believes his Cardinals are going to have a solid season.

It won’t be nearly as easy to win the conference, however. The Big South is split into two divisions, and Luverne’s division will be difficult to maneuver in its own right.

“The conference is way different this year. We get St. James in our division,” said Antoine about the consistently strong Saints. “We’re really going to have to pull a major upset to beat them.”

Pipestone Area posted a 5-11 record in 2013 but head coach Ed Gustafson is confident that improvement is on the way.

“I’m hoping we’re going to be better than we were last year. We have girls with more experience. We were pretty young last year.”

Senior Tayla Sysavath will play No. 1 doubles or No. 2 singles this fall. Junior Abby Steffan is slotted for No. 1 singles. Juniors Sarah Woelber and Maya Bledsoe will vie at first and second doubles, respectively, and eighth-grader Lauren Lapthorn is a candidate for No. 2 singles.

Gustafson says many of his top players have been working at tennis in the summer and can hit with good authority.