MATTOON -- The Mattoon girls’ tennis team has one senior and two juniors in the top three singles spots this season. After those three, the team is dealing with youth and inexperience this season.
Long-time Mattoon tennis coach Dwight Perry is working with the group and he’s already seen some progress this season. On Saturday, the Green Wave finished in third place in their own tournament.
“We are struggling with youth and we are inexperienced. Some of the juniors got to play last year, but for the other girls, when you go into that top of the lineup with the varsity, it’s a big jump,” Perry said. “The future looks bright and that’s what we are competing for. We want to continue to compete and get better this year, too, and try and get some girls qualified for state. If we can convince them to play in the summer and take lessons, it helps the program so much more, so we encourage that.”
Perry was hoping to have Canyn Borntreger, who he sees a lot of upside in, but she will miss the season after having shoulder surgery.
Madi Freeman is the lone senior on the team and is competing at No. 3 singles for the Green Wave. Perry has been happy with Freeman’s leadership this season.
“I’ve been working with Madi for, I am not sure how long even,” Perry said. “Madi is almost like a coach on the court and makes sure she is one of the first girls to get there and one of the last ones to leave. If there’s things to do around the court, you are always to see her helping. I hope the younger kids see that and pick up on that, too.”
Juniors Kyla Doty and Kyah Eastin are at the top of Mattoon’s lineup as the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, respectively. The two saw plenty of varsity action last season and Perry is hoping to see both take the next step forward this season.
“They are competitive and they know that I expect a lot from them,” Perry said. “When they put in the effort and work on the little things, it’s going to depend on how much work they are willing to put in and they can do some nice things. They can get in a lull and we have to inspire them to do better. For them to get better it’s going to take a lot of extra work.”
Hallie Niemerg, a sophomore, steps in at the No. 4 spot.
“Hallie is a good athlete and we don’t have to get on her about moving or her footwork,” Perry said. “That girl is competitive and ready.”
Junior Amari Brown is at the No. 5 singles spot and Perry said she’s stepped up as a leader on the team along with Freeman.
“She has come a long way since her sophomore year,” Perry said. “It’s the maturity and learning the strategy of the game.”
Freshman Abbie Kennell is at the No. 6 singles spot and is part of a talented freshman class along with Tess Huene and Emily Stortzum.
“Abbie just picked up a racket this summer and she is a really good athlete and she’s learning. With her, like with 90 percent of our team, it’s footwork and being in the right position to hit because she is pretty strong,” Perry said. “Tess is a lefty and a very strong player once she gets everything together. Emily has never played before but she is a competitor.”