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Boys tennis: Good numbers highlight Trojans squad

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington boys tennis team hopes to find strength in numbers in 2017, while Luverne hopes to continue its streak of seven consecutive section championships.

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Key Worthington Trojans boys tennis lettermen for 2017 are (front row from left) Smile Bu, Pokwar Taw, Kipton Jensen, (back row) Brandon Harberts, Kyle Janssen, Blaine Doeden, Sully Merrigan and Cade Lindner. (Adam Watts/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington boys tennis team hopes to find strength in numbers in 2017, while Luverne hopes to continue its streak of seven consecutive section championships.

The Trojans have doubled in size from 2016, with 38 players coming out this spring, 18 more than the 20 it had a year ago. While the main contributors on varsity remain fairly stable from the previous year, head coach Mike Marquardt thinks the large numbers coming in behind them will push them to improve.

“The guys can’t be complacent,” he said. “There are people behind you that want your job. That is going to provide some motivation.”

The spike in numbers, the coach says, is due in large part to the efforts of assistant coach Matt Fletcher, who teaches at Worthington Middle School. He helped bring in a lot of young players to the team, and while perhaps they can’t help the varsity team out immediately on the court, they are still a valuable asset to the older players.

“The youth is helping us out,” Marquardt said. “The energy level is good and they just want to play.”

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They won’t have to wait long to play, with the first matches just around the corner. The Trojans open the season on Tuesday with a match against Montevideo.

“We get a test out of the gate,” Marquardt said. “It’s gonna be really close and really tight and it’s either going to go our way or it’s not.”

The Trojans just opened practice this past Monday and with the weather being what it is in late March, they will have only been outside on the courts to practice a couple of times before their first match. That lack of time and preparation before the season kicks off means the tennis team has to jump into the season and just wait to see how things go.

“In girls tennis, they spend the first week having challenge matches and we have four hours of practice and we get a lot done,” the coach said. “Now with boys practice, we have an hour and a half and there’s rain and snow and whatnot. It’s hard to get things planned out.”

Returning to the team this year are Blaine Doeden, Kyle Janssen, Brandon Harberts, Kipton Jensen, Sully Merrigan, Cade Lindner, Smile Bu and Pokwar Taw. And back with the team after moving away his sophomore year is Leo Duarte, who Marquardt expects to play at No. 2 or No. 3 singles.

Doeden, the projected No. 1 singles player for Worthington in his sophomore season, spent time in the offseason working with a private coach and his swing is “just different” according to his coach.

“You’ve got to work in the offseason,” Marquardt said. “If you just pick up a racket when you start and put it down when the season’s over, you’re not going to get better. You’ve got to have a taste for it and work to get better and that’s what Blaine’s been doing.”

Luverne, meanwhile, hopes to continue its streak of consecutive section championships, and will lean on its depth to accomplish that.

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“None of the kids want to break the string,” LHS head coach Greg Antoine said. “We’ve been there seven years in a row. So that is a motivator. We get as good as we can by section time so we can do the best we can.”

The Cardinals lost their No. 1 and No. 2 singles players from 2016, and will replace them with top doubles players from a year ago. And the doubles mindset will be an asset, according to the coach.

“Our singles players are comfortable getting to the net,” he said. “A lot of singles players play at the baseline, but I think my guys, as former doubles players, are going to be antsy to get to the net.”

As good as the coach thinks his top players can be, he thinks they can get a lot of points at No. 3 and No. 4 singles and in the doubles.

“You don’t have to get the points at one singles,” Antoine said. “Four singles and three doubles count, too. I think at two doubles and three and four singles, we’ll be pretty good. I think depth is going to be our strength.”

Related Topics: BOYS TENNIS
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