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The Carthage Press
  • FALL PREVIEW: Two key contributors return for girls' tennis team

  • Only two players return from last season’s starting six, but they were key in helping the Carthage girls’ tennis team to a 10-4 record and a second-place finish in the district tournament.
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  • Only two players return from last season’s starting six, but they were key in helping the Carthage girls’ tennis team to a 10-4 record and a second-place finish in the district tournament.
    Nikki Hitchock is one of those; she teamed with Kaley Ledford in qualifying as a doubles team for the sectional tournament. Now a senior, she’ll play an even bigger role this fall. The other returning starter is Addie Kunard, who started despite just being a freshman last season.
    “We’ve got 16 total players,” head coach Mark Lingenfelter said. “We have four new freshmen which is a good number to have. If you can maintain four a year that puts you at 16, which is the max for the courts here – 16 playing at one time. As far as sophomores I’ve picked up one new player this year and we have three or four total. Our junior class is pretty big, and we have two seniors: Nikki Hitchcock and Marybel Miranda. We won’t be graduating a whole lot of kids; we’ll have a good group returning next year.”
    This year’s starting lineup hasn’t yet been set, but it’s starting to fall into place. It’s been too hot for singles challenge matches so the team has worked on doubles instead. The last challenge match will probably take place Saturday.
    The team’s top four players are pretty well figured out. Hitchcock is showing Lingenfelter she wants to be the team’s No. 1 player, he said, and Kunard will probably be at No. 2. Rounding out the top four are Samantha Hutchins and Natalie Hitchcock.
    “I’ve got a slew of girls competing for those five and six spots,” Lingenfelter said. “Anna Christianson, Anna Brightwell, Molly Shannon, Maddi Capps and Kierra Lee, a freshman this year, a first-time player who’s already competing for a varsity spot.”
    The doubles lineup will take some more thinking to craft.
    “It’s one of those things where you have to see who plays well with who and who is going to give their teammate the best chance at winning,” Lingenfelter said. “Probably during the season you’ll end up playing two or three different lineups and seeing what works before you get to conference and district play.”
    Not many players had a lot of opportunities to play over the summer, but a handful came to the team’s open court nights and attended tennis camps. Several came to both the Carthage boys’ and girls’ camps.
    “These girls always give me 100 percent effort,” Lingenfelter said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. I really think they want to get better and I think they mesh well together.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I wouldn’t say it’s a growing season because we’ve got a strong enough core and a lot of athletes who can play. I’m hoping to go over .500 this year but if we don’t, we’ve got a great group that’s going to return next year. I’d love for people to come out and support us. I think they’d really enjoy it even if they don’t understand the game. It’s fun to watch.”
    Carthage opens its season at 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon at home against Monett.

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