BY AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington boys tennis team has hit the ground running.
“It's probably the third season we got to start outside Day 1, so I'll take that,” WHS head coach Mike Marquardt said. “With the weather how it was, I didn't think that was going to happen.”
And not only have the Trojans been able to be outside to start the season, but Marquardt said the team has picked up right where it left off last season.
“I was really impressed the last couple of days with hitting,” he said. “There's not a lot of rust that's being shaken off. To start that way, I know the guys have played a lot during the winter.”
Worthington returns most of its lineup from a year ago as Blaine Doeden, Sullivan Merrigan, Kipton Jenson and Cade Lindner all return and will anchor the singles lineup.
“I'm looking forward to this year,” Marquardt said. “I think it's going to be a great ride and I think the guys are going to do incredibly well.”
Doeden is coming off a state-qualifying year last year, which Marquardt said will help drive the whole team.
“He has the confidence now,” the coach said. “It's not just him, when he was up at state, Sully was up there too, hitting with him, so he got a taste of the competition level. Instead of being a deer in the headlights, it's 'We can hang with this.'”
While the doubles teams have yet to be set, Ryan Newman, Ben Lopez, Colby Hastings, Bobby Souwankham, Michael Schnieder and Alec Langerud are all in the running to fill those spots.
“It's a little reassuring knowing where your strengths are and you just have to tweak a couple areas,” Marquardt said. “The guys are well aware of that. Now you have that little competition going, who is going to step up and fit into this role. The guys are excited for that, there are six spots that are open and you have to fight and do the best you can.”
WHS opens its season Tuesday against a tough opponent in Montevideo.
“I think people are looking at us, and that's great, but we still have some things we want to work on,” Marquardt said. “I think we'll handle competition well regardless of where it comes from. I'm really excited to see what we're going to do on both sides, for the singles and for the doubles. I think it's a little more up in the air with how the doubles are going to work, but that's always the nice surprise. It's like Christmas, when you open it up, and you're like, 'Wow, sweet, this is great.' With the singles, I saw that gift open up last year and had a lot of good games. Now let's see if you can keep going with that.”Luverne Cardinals
With a good mix of returners and younger players, Luverne head coach Greg Antoine expects another strong season from the Cardinals.
Luverne, which qualified as a team for the state tournament a year ago, returns three seniors and five juniors. However, there are eight freshmen who are looking to make an impact this season.
“A strength would be a good number of players in the freshman class, as they gain experience this year, we will become a better team,” Antoine said. “Another strength is our experience and competition the past few years in the section tournament and the state tournament.”
The Cardinals will look to Matt Jelken, Cole Stoltenberg, Graham Cunningham and Matt Sehr as leaders this season.
“We will continue to work on being aggressive and finishing off points when we are presented with that opportunity,” Antoine said.Pipestone Area Arrows
The Arrows return an experienced roster this season for head coach Ed Gustafson.
Seniors Cade Baartman, Cory Cooper, Dalton Pottratz, Rily Longstreet and Taylor Mollema will join juniors Jackson Winter and Noah Everett on this year’s squad.
Nine freshmen make up the rest of the Arrows to give them a mix of retuners and underclassmen.