The Indian River High School girls’ tennis team will be without their regular head coach for this season, but they won’t have to look too far to find some help with the program.
Head coach Stefanie Riddle is out on maternity leave for the 2018 campaign, and her assistant from last year — her mom, Susan — will be away from the team as well, performing her grandmotherly duties.
In their absence, the IR girls are being coached by boys’ tennis coach Mariano Woo.
A strong group of upperclassmen should have Woo and the Indians in contention for the Henlopen South Division title.
“Well, when [Athletic Director] Todd [Fuhrman] told me he wasn’t able to find someone, I had offered to help out,” Woo said about taking the program for the year. “I am not taking any additional salary, but I asked them to invest the money back into the tennis program. The school board approved, so we are hoping to use some of that money to patch up some of the cracks in the court.
“I have only had the girls for about two and a half weeks, so it has been tough to really assess everything. I didn’t really have a chance to see them last year, with coaching the boys.”
Woo will be fortunate to have two of the Indians’ top singles players back from a year ago. Juniors Alexa Fitz and Madison Galbreath are back after solid sophomore campaigns.
Fitz was primarily counted on at first singles last year, where she finished with a 6-5 mark in the regular season. Galbreath posted a 9-4 ledger from the third singles spot.
“Alexa is a very big power-hitter,” Woo said. “Her style contrasts significantly from Maddy. Maddy is more consistent with her play. She is more of a volley-and-keep-it-in-play type of player. I would like to see Alexa develop more consistency. She has the power game, but I would like to see her reduce her unforced errors.”
Woo said senior Joud Dabaj will be the third singles player for the first match of the season.
Making up the doubles teams will be a group of four juniors. At first doubles, Analy Marquez will team up with Katelyn Timmons, while Madison Killen and Brooke Weaver are slotted into the second doubles spot. Junior Amber Hills and sophomore Marlee White will also have a chance to challenge for doubles spots throughout the course of the season as they get more experience.
“I have been hearing that numbers for girls’ tennis are down across the league,” Woo admitted. “Word is that some teams may not even have enough to field a full squad. I am hopeful that we can contend for the Henlopen South Division title.”
The Indians will open up play Friday, March 23, with a home contest against Gunston Day School of Maryland. They will then hit the road for five straight matches, which will feature meetings with Henlopen Conference powers Caesar Rodney and Dover.
Serve it up: The Henlopen Conference Tennis Championships will take place at Sea Colony near Bethany Beach on Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12. The state tournament will be May 19-23.