Court is in session: New courts and new coach for Spartan girls in 2012There will be no dandelions sprouting from the tennis courts at Superior High School this year. For the 2012 season, the Spartans will be playing on a brand new surface.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
There will be no dandelions sprouting from the tennis courts at Superior High School this year. For the 2012 season, the Spartans will be playing on a brand new surface.
“It’s much better,” said Carissa Welch, a senior on the SHS girls tennis team. “We don’t have to worry about puddles anymore and the cracks are gone.”
The upgrades to the SHS courts began last year with new posts, new nets and repaired fencing. The renovation was then finished this season with a complete resurfacing of the high school courts, which cost about $48,000. As a final touch, wind screens are scheduled to be installed in one to two weeks.
“It’s a big improvement,” said John Johnson, starting his first season as head coach of the Spartan girls tennis team. “We’re excited about it for sure.”
Prior to the recent improvements, the SHS tennis courts had a reputation as being among the worst in the Lake Superior Conference. Athletes griped about playing on the uneven surface, and a lacework of cracks made play unpredictable.
But no more.
The Spartans now look forward to their inaugural season on the new courts. Johnson is enthusiastic about this year’s team and said the girls have an eagerness to learn.
“I think there’s a lot of potential,” Johnson said.
Seniors dominate the team, filling all four singles slots and three of the four spots in the top two doubles teams. Superior is not an overwhelmingly experienced team, however.
Johnson said only four girls had significant match-play experience at the varsity level.
“There were a lot of girls who only played JV last year who are now all varsity this year,” said senior Jessica Engstrom, who played at No. 2 doubles last season. “But even last week at the (Eau Claire) tournament, you can see a big improvement already from playing three matches that day.”
The Spartans lost key seniors from last year, including Natalie Burger and Raya Kosey, who played No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively.
Cassie Hanson and Keely McCall will take over the top singles positions this season, with Welch playing at No. 3 singles and Brianna Homich filling in at No. 4 singles.
In doubles, Johnson is still looking for the best pairings. Engstrom and Sara Olson will play at No. 1 doubles, and a mix of four girls will spend time playing in No. 2 doubles.
“It’s trial and error to see what’s going to work this season,” Welch said.
The No. 3 doubles team is made up of the two youngest players — freshman Emma Buckley and sophomore Carly Webber. Johnson has been impressed by their teamwork so far and has high hopes for the young players.
“Our third doubles team won two matches down in Eau Claire and they won again (Tuesday), both in tie-breaks,” Johnson said. “They’re a young team but I’m going to keep putting them together. They’re the youngest kids on varsity, and they did really well. So that’s exciting too.”
Johnson, a 2001 graduate of Duluth Marshall, moved back to the Twin Ports about 10 months ago and opened a new business, the Superior Tennis Academy, in June. He was a three-sport athlete in high school and played racquetball professionally during college, but Johnson said tennis has always remained his true passion.
“I love teaching the mental and physical skills I’ve acquired over the years and am particularly excited about bringing the sport of tennis back to life, in this area in general, but in my home town of Superior in particular,” Johnson said.
The SHS tennis team plays its first home match of the season at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday against Cloquet.
Tennis Girls Varsity Schedule
Saturday, Aug. 11 at Eau Claire North Invite, 9 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 15 at Osceola Invitational, 9 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 16 at Rice Lake, 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 21 home vs. Cloquet, 4:15 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 27 home vs. Ashland, 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 28 at Duluth Denfeld , 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 4 home vs. Duluth Denfeld, 4:15 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 6 home vs. Hermantown, 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 11 at Duluth Marshall, 4:15 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15 at New Richmond, 9 a.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 18 at Cloquet, 4:15 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 20 home vs. Duluth East, 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Ashland, 4 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 27 at Hermantown, 4 p.m.