The Indian River girls’ tennis team took to the courts this week, following the conclusion of tryouts. With a pleasantly abundant sign-up result, head coach Karen Oliphant is setting the bar for the young athletes to make their presence known this season. She is prepared to work with her squad for some time, considering she has at least another two seasons with everyone.
With no seniors on the team, the group of girls may appear youthful, but they are in no way inexperienced. They will look to fill holes on the court left by two seniors last year, including the second-singles spot formerly held by IR grad Erica Evans.
“We’re looking to move the girls around a little this year,” said Oliphant. “Some of the singles girls could move over to doubles and the doubles girls are looking to move to singles. I know who’s been off-season practicing, and I know a number of them have improved.”
The team will likely be headed by three-year starter Ramsey Ruether. The junior has held the top position at first-singles since freshman year for the Lady Indians.
Having a young squad holds promise for the next couple of years, though Oliphant doesn’t want the heavily weighted junior class to force her to start over in two years.
“I have a number of juniors on the team,” she stated, “but I want to make sure I still have solid players in two years when these girls graduate.”
With three freshmen coming out for the 2008 team, a handful of sophomores and a decent number of juniors, Oliphant is hoping to capitalize this year on the court.
“I won’t be graduating anybody,” she said, “so I have the opportunity to work with these girls and establish these relationships.”
Since tryouts, she’s been working the girls hard, determined to improve their cardio endurance. The 2.5-mile run she held at tryouts and lengthy runs at practices turned out to be a deliberating factor for some of the hopefuls.
“There were a few others who had signed up,” she said, “but I think the run was a little intimidating for a few of them. It’s hard to encourage them to come out if they’re not going willing to work through everything. Endurance is very important in this sport. When are you not moving on the tennis courts?” she asked rhetorically.
For the first week of tryouts, the girls concentrated on improving speed, stamina and agility, with running, jogging and shuffling exercises. It wasn’t until last Friday that the girls picked up their racquets as part of practice.
The team will open up on Tuesday, April 1, hosting Lake Forest to kick off the schedule.
“I wish our season started up sooner,” said Oliphant, “but we’re chocked full in April. The girls have their schedule, and they know what’s coming. Everyone knows what we need to do to prepare in practice.”
As she noted, an early jump on practices without any games isn’t a total loss.
“It’s nice in the sense that I have time to work with them on their strokes and make sure they’re ready for the season,” she said.
“As long as the weather stays warm like this, I have high hopes for the season,” she added. “The girls want to be out here and want to be playing. Everyone wants to improve. They’re all doing very well in school. I’ve got a great group of girls.”