HESSTON — With over half the team making their varsity tennis debuts, the Smoky Valley High School girls tennis team will go through some growing pains this season.
The Vikings return singles players Kira Haxton and Sophie Smith from last year, but are otherwise a new team. The inexperienced Vikings opened the season in Hesston on Thursday and finished fifth out of eight teams.
Head coach John Bellah knows his team has a lot of work to still put in, but understands the difficulties that face a team without a lot of experience.
“We performed about how well I expected,” Bellah said. “We had a lot of inconsistency and we were a bit timid. We have a lot of learning to do at this level. I think as we get more confidence, we’ll go for more shots and then we’ll have more success, but it’s going to take a little while to get there.”
The Vikings were headlined by Haxton, a state qualifier from a year ago, at No. 2 singles. Haxton had a dominant day, going 3-0 for first place.
Haxton was hardly tested, as she won her matches by scores of 8-0, 8-2, and an 8-4 win in the championship over Buhler’s Aliyah Frederick.
Outside of No. 2 singles, the Vikings were not able to produce many points. Sophie Smith went 1-2 for sixth place at No. 1 singles.
The No. 2 doubles team of Anneka Peterson and Morgan Bowles were also sixth in their division, while the No. 1 doubles team of Isabelle Wright and Lana Clark finished seventh.
Bellah said he will likely stick with Haxton and Smith in singles, but he’s still looking for the right doubles combination.
With the season just beginning, Bellah is likely to tamper with the lineup in upcoming tournaments.
“In doubles, I have no idea who is going to be with whom to make the best pair to put out their on the court,” Bellah said.
Bellah also left open the possibility for someone currently outside the top six to get a shot at the varsity level.
“We have eight girls fighting for two spots,” Bellah said. “I think the four girls who were here today have a good shot at it, but I think we’re going to have some nice competition that will get the team to be focused and determined.”
The Vikings have a quick turnaround as they travel to Ellsworth on Tuesday.
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