WORTHINGTON -- Tennis is a popular sport at Worthington High School. There are 42 girls between grades 7-12 out for fall tennis, the most head coach Mike Marquardt has ever had.
The Trojans didn’t lose any players to graduation from the 2018 team. And although there doesn’t appear to be an identifiable “star” on the 2019 roster, Marquardt calls it a balanced and competitive group from players one through 15.
WHS compiled a 1-9 record last year. But with so many veterans working off the experience they built on last fall, there’s ample reason to assume improvement is on the way.
There will be some experimentation early in the regular season, some mixing and matching.
“The roles are going to change. I’ve had some girls put in more time in the off-season, and it’s paying off,” Marquardt said, adding, “They work hard. They wanna have fun, too. They’re competitive but they’re forgiving, too, so let’s get back out there and have some fun. And that’s how you’re going to get better.”
Leading the way are four veteran singles players. Maggie Putnam performed at No. 1 singles a season ago, Kessey Aljets was at No. 2, Cynthia Souksavath was at No. 3 and Madison Johnson was at No. 4. They’re all back.
Marquardt describes Putnam as a mentally strong player with improved ground strokes and placement. “Gritty” is the word he uses.
Aljets is a player who can make all the shots. The coach would like her to continue improving on consistency and setting up her volleys.
Souksavath developed some consistency last season but will work at improving her short game and point-finishing skills.
Johnson is described by her coach as a scrappy player who can unleash some powerful serves.
While Worthington will return several experienced singles players, the doubles lineup will be less predictable. Many different players will be moved in and out of the three varsity doubles slots, at least early.
Last year’s singles players are familiar with doubles -- it was the first year of singles play for all four of them. In doubles, approximately eight girls found themselves in the rotation in 2018. Two other girls with singles experience will blend into the singles rotation, and there are four more girls who will see some court time in doubles.
“I think we’ve got a better foundation of what we need to do,” Marquardt said.
While it’s impossible to predict all the early lineups, it’s easy to predict that Marquardt and assistant Matt Fletcher will stress consistency throughout the season. Marquardt wants his players to play hard, and play smart, throughout the season and let the won-loss record fall whichever way it’s destined to fall.
“They have to play within themselves,” he said. “It’s almost like chess. If I hit it here, you’re going to go there. We have to anticipate that.”
As a group, Marquardt says he has players who serve fairly consistently, but not many of them have the power he’d like to see.
“But we’ve also got to get on the court. We have to hit,” he said.
Speaking of the courts … last week and this week they underwent resurfacing. “It’s wonderful and fabulous to have the courts that we do. We have the best courts in the state,” said an appreciative Marquardt.
Worthington’s first regular season match is Tuesday at Waseca. The team travels to play New Ulm on Thursday, Aug. 22, then comes home Saturday, Aug. 24, for the Worthington Invitational with Luverne, Pipestone Area and Yellow Medicine East.