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Prep tennis: Consistency is key for Worthington

Worthington High returning letter winners (front from left) Anna Kill, Shelby Larson, Annie Lesnar and (back row) Brianna Kempema, Emily Williamson, Erika Schutte and Paige Stewart stop for a photo at practice last week. The Trojans open the season against Sleepy Eye on Tuesday.

WORTHINGTON — Emily Williamson is confident about her tennis abilities. And confident about what she needs to work on to improve.

“Consistency,” she said last week moments after practice. “I have the strokes. I played for many years now. I think, for anyone consistency is the thing that makes them better.”

Her coach, Mike Marquardt, is another proponent of consistency.

“Consistent,” is the word Marquardt uses when he’s asked what he wants to see in his Trojans this fall. “A team that doesn’t beat itself. A team that doesn’t make mistakes. Short-term memory with mistakes.”

The 2014 Worthington Trojans girls varsity tennis squad opens the season Tuesday at home against Sleepy Eye. Six letter winners graduated from a 2013 team that posted a 10-7 record, but a solid group returns led by Williamson, a senior who will be playing No. 1 singles for the second year in a row.

“I feel good,” Williamson said about the upcoming campaign. “I was pleased with myself last year. I think I’ve got a lot left in the gas tank.”

Williamson said she already feels improved over last year, especially with her serve and the way she feels more comfortable going to the net. She continues to work on staying focused on points, which she said she has struggled with in the past.

As Marquardt teaches his complete roster to stay competitive on all points, he knows he’ll have the attention of several experienced players. Besides Williamson, seniors Brianna Kempema and Annie Lesnar, juniors Erika Schutte and Paige Stewart, sophomore Shelby Larson and freshman Anna Kill return to the team. Kempema is slotted to play No. 1 doubles with Lesnar at least early in the season. Schutte and Stewart are expected to be the No. 2 doubles duo. Larson is at No. 2 singles and Kill at No. 3 singles.

With Williamson, Marquardt returns the No. 6 seed in last year’s section tournament. “She’s got the total game,” Marquardt said, but he wants to see his ace show a stronger mental approach. Kempema and Lesnar have performed together for the past three seasons, so they know each other well. Marquardt stresses patience as the key to their improvement.

The remainder of the team, said the veteran head coach, is “eager.” Marquardt adds, “They’ve got the energy. We just have to see how it plays out in the big picture.”

With the old Southwest Conference gone the way of history, Worthington contends this year in a new Big South Conference containing a mixture of Southwest Conference and South Central Conference schools. That means perennial powerhouse St. James — with a preseason No. 2 Class A ranking — is part of the action. But Marquardt isn’t looking too far ahead, at least as far as future opponents goes.

“If in 20 years they come back and say they’re still playing tennis,” said Marquardt, “then I’ve done my job,”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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