Wawasee Tennis

2018 Lady Warriors Tennis Preview

2005 is the year on the mind of returning head coach Shane Staley.  In his fourth year with the program, he has been focused on building a competitive team.  This year’s Lady Warriors have the chance to do something that no other Wawasee girls team has done since 2005…turn in an overall winning season.  Each year since Staley’s arrival, they’ve won more matches, both in and out of conference.  Will year four finally be the year the team finishes above .500?

Notable losses from last year’s roster include Taylor Mock who graduated after playing #2 doubles as part of a duo that went 12-3 in 2017.  Number one singles Meg Heinisch left the team after transferring to Bethany Christian and Peyton Rookstool quit the team to focus on volleyball.

Will these losses prove to be the stumbling block to a plus .500 season?  Staley doesn’t think so.  “While no coach wants to lose varsity players, no team is really all that great if you’re only relying on a few players to make or break a team,” he commented. “I feel we’re as deep from top to bottom this year than we’ve been since I got here. Offseason, several girls have been putting in the time and I think they’ll make a huge impact this year.  In fact, we have 3-4 players on this year’s roster that will have varsity potential, who might get more JV playing time due to the overall growth in competitiveness of our team.”

Key returning players this year include captains Kabrea Rostochak (senior) and Kendra Doerr (junior) who led Wawasee at #1 doubles last year, advancing to Culver Academies in sectionals.  With a 12-4 record and a #3 seed in the Northern Lakes Conference last year, they both look to be impact players on this year’s team.

Will the #1 duo make another run this year?  The answer to that is yes, but most likely separately.  Because there’s an early indicator that the duo will be split up this year.  “Right now it looks like Kendra will start off as our #1 singles player.  She’s put in quality time this offseason and is becoming a great competitor and a solid singles player,” Coach Staley said.  “Our singles core last year was inexperienced and had few wins for us, and I think she’ll eventually (if not immediately) be the answer to that.  Rostochak will more than likely stay at #1 doubles,” Staley added.  “She’s a natural and a very formidable doubles player.  While Doerr will be hard to replace at that position, I believe Rostochak can once again be a linchpin there and achieve similar success with a new partner.”

Last year’s #1 doubles duo Kabrea Rostochak and Kendra Doerr look to take on different roles this season.

Who will that partner be?  Three players seem to be in the running early season: last year’s standout #2 doubles player Courtney Larson and two relative varsity newcomers, senior Brianna Haessig and sophomore Molly Jones.

Senior Courtney Larson looks to repeat her success in doubles in 2018.

Another key returning player is last year’s #3 singles Elizabeth Kleopfer who looks to be moving up to #2 singles.  On sophomore Kleopfer, Staley noted, “Liz is a great athlete, has a great attitude and she’s hitting a heavier ball this year and is a much smarter and more experienced singles player. Both Kleopfer and Doerr have been pushing each other in challenge matches which is great for the team.”

A more experienced Elizabeth Kleopfer returns for her second year at varsity singles.

And what about the last spot at varsity singles?  “It’s still early, but Kaitlin Graber who is a junior has improved a lot since last year as did sophomore Kennedy Church who worked as hard as anyone on the team last year outside of Doerr.  There’s a few others in the mix as well, so it’ll be interesting to see who lands where.”

When asked what was the biggest challenge facing the new season, Staley responded, “Culture change is one.  Getting parents and student-athletes to buy in to the program, its importance, its potential and accepting the sacrifice needed to achieve success. Wawasee tennis has been at the bottom for so long that there remains remnants of a poor culture lingering.” Staley went on to explain, “When losing becomes acceptable, it’s tough to break that.  Culture-wise, I felt like these past three years coaching was like slowly peeling off a Band-Aid.  During this offseason, it was clear what needed to be done…just rip it off, deal with some pain in order to heal and progress.”

Additions this year include 5 freshmen added to the roster, all relative newcomers to the sport, but showcasing some early potential.

Wawasee’s season opener is scheduled at home vs. Westview on April 10, 2018.

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