Coach welcomes tennis team’s depth
Competition is always a good thing in athletics. Athletes push each other to the limits with hopes of overtaking someone else for more playing time.
And with 20 players out for the 2003 season, De Soto girls tennis coach Michael Sullivan predicted there would be plenty of competition during the fall camp and throughout the season.
"I think the size of the team is a strength for us," he said. "It will really create competition because there are only six spots to play at each varsity and junior varsity event."
Although the Wildcat coach lost two top performers to graduation, Sullivan returns four letter-winners and gains a top newcomer.
Gone is Kim Anderson, who teamed with junior Stacy Davis at No. 1 doubles. The two girls finished with a a 17-9 record and reached the regional quarterfinals before their season came to an end.
"It will be hard to replace Anderson's leadership and experience," Sullivan said. "She was a team captain and MVP the last two years. We will definitely need a player or two to step up to help fill her shoes."
Maria Gonzalez also reached the regional quarterfinals at No. 2 doubles with Cassie Garza before seeing her career end.
Sullivan can call on four letter-winners who will provide a solid nucleus. Davis, who has already earned letters her freshman and sophomore seasons, has tons of experience at the varsity level. Junior Bianca Gonzalez earned a first-round win at regionals last year at No. 2 singles and hopes to do even better in 2003. She compiled a 16-13 record last season.
Sophomore Lauren Hampton, last year's Rookie of the Year, returns at her No. 1 singles spot and is expected to better last year's 19-11 mark.
Garza, who was a newcomer last year, hopes to advance even deeper into regionals and secure a berth to the state meet her senior season.
Sullivan predicted freshman Alex Prosser would be there when it was time to name his starting varsity players.
"I expect her to play a key role in the varsity lineup this year," he said. "Out of all of the newcomers, she has the most playing experience. She played quite a few tournaments over the summer to help her get ready."
Other than the five listed above, Sullivan said there were several other players who would push for the last couple of varsity spots.
Before the first match, Jessica Cuba, Stephanie Hoover, Emily Garza, Amanda Cox and Amy Cuba would round out the team's top-10, Sullivan said.
Sullivan lists Hampton, Davis, Gonzalez and Prosser as his top-four players.
"At this point they have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack," he said. "The last couple of varsity spots will be a battle between another six to eight players throughout the year. My hope is that another two players will step up and secure those positions."
De Soto combined for a 24-86 mark in 2001 after adding up all the individual varsity matches. It is possible to imagine Sullivan's excitement when his team compiled a 65-63 overall record last season.
"I don't expect the same kind of jump this year," he said, "but we should continue to improve."