Wawasee Tennis

A Look Ahead to the 2018-19 Lady Warriors’ Tennis Season

As the snow covers Wawasee’s brand new tennis facility, the courts are stripped of nets and only a ghostly history of players, coaches and spectators echo from the past through the cold and wind. In less than two months, the Lady Warriors will begin their 39th season in school history. Only 10 of these seasons have been winning. There is no conference championship banners hanging here. Only two sectional wins in thirty-eight seasons. The last time the Lady Warriors turned in a winning season was more than a decade ago, in the 2004-05 season when they finished 12-3 (3rd in the NLC).

At Wawasee, it’s a familiar tale of David vs. Goliath when it comes to its history of conference competitions and rivals. Small school, tennis teams full of multi-sport athletes not dedicated to tennis, going up against schools three times their size with dedicated players who train in the sport year-long. This should explain the 38 seasons in the books. But if you ask fifth-year head coach Shane Staley, he considers it merely an excuse. “I’ve never felt that we couldn’t compete here,” he commented, “Only that it would take time to set a proper foundation to a program that could succeed here.”

Staley was hired by former A.D. Steve Wiktorowski in 2014. In talks during the hiring process, it was stated that the program had been in decline for some time and that it would be at least a 4-5-year rebuild project for Staley to get the team to be competitive once again. Each year, under Staley, the Lady Warriors have won more matches and competed better within their conference. So will year five under Staley be the breakthrough?

“I expect it to be,” Staley remarked. “Ending this season with anything less than a winning overall record would be devastating. Also, not competing well enough to win the sectionals (or at least pushing things to the brink of winning) would be a letdown.”

Captain and Senior Kendra Doerr will lead the Lady Warriors into their 39th season

When it comes to sectionals, rival Warsaw has won 18 straight. Though Staley denies there’s a true rivalry there. “When I first came to this program, everyone hyped up the Warsaw rivalry and I looked at everyone like they were nuts. There is no such thing as a rivalry when you continually lose 4-1, 5-0 to another team. Now if we begin pushing matches to 3-2 or winning them, then you’ll quickly see a true rivalry form. Hopefully that can happen this season.”

The 2018-19 Lady Warriors look to have one of the most complete teams top-to-bottom (varsity-to-JV) perhaps in the history of their school. Senior captain Kendra Doerr looks to be the most complete player since Katy Ashpole who graduated back in 2014. Junior Elizabeth Kleopfer, with two years of varsity singles already under her belt, looks to continue to improve the singles lineup. Junior Kennedy Church, who finished her first full year in varsity singles, returns to compete for a singles spot and senior Peyton Rookstool returns after a year off to bolster the lineup with a few seasons of varsity singles experience as well.

Junior Elizabeth Kleopfer returns to bolster the varsity lineup

“I believe the key for us is to find that right combination of 1 and 2 doubles partners this year,” Staley explains. “While we have solid singles players this year, not one of them is a dedicated tennis player, so we lose some off-season training time and experience. But Doerr, Kleopfer and Rookstool are also extremely good athletes. Kleopfer is an all-conference volleyball player and Doerr an all-conference soccer player. They’ll be going up against other high varsity players that dedicate themselves to tennis all year long. I think they can all win at their respective positions, but we’ll need to set the stage early as in believing they can win,” Staley added. “As a coach, I believe in these players and this team, but that does little good unless the players can come together and believe in themselves and as a team. If they’re prepared to make this season one for the record books, it could very well happen!”

Rounding out what may be one of the toughest Wawasee varsity squads in recent memory will be players that compete to fill the #1 and #2 doubles positions. Who that will be, Staley has no clue until challenge matches are completed. “We have so many players competing head-to-head for those positions, more players working hard in the offseason than we’ve ever had before, so I expect some big surprises this year in players stepping up and fighting for varsity spots.”

Among those names are junior Molly Jones who was a lynchpin at #2 varsity doubles last year, senior Kaitlin Graber who put in more time in the offseason and improved greatly as well as sophomores Abby Morehead and Tate Cowan and junior Valerie Haessig.

“It’s definitely going to be a fun and exciting season!” Staley predicts. And he quickly points out that 12 of the 25 players on the team this season are either freshmen or are new to the team. “We have some really good athletes in the mix of new players and if they commit to tennis and are willing to work hard, there are definitely some players in that incoming class that could make a huge impact on Wawasee’s future in tennis, much the same way Doerr has done in her four years here.”

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