Uncertainty reigns as tennis team begins quest back to state tourney
It all set up so perfectly a year ago.
The De Soto tennis team played six varsity players virtually the entire year, loading both singles players and both doubles team with experience heading into regionals.
De Soto qualified five of its six players to the Class 4A state tournament. All five brought home medals and there was even something for coach Michael Sullivan to carry -- a third place team trophy.
Only a handful of practices in to the 2006 season and Sullivan said he knows he has a more difficult take ahead of him, though.
While the Wildcats return three players with state experience and a fourth -- senior Alex Prosser -- capable of making a run in the state tournament, Sullivan said there will be some tough tennis and tough decisions have to be made before the squad is ready for another regional romp.
"Last year it was all pretty set," he said. "It was clear I wasn't going to mix up the doubles teams. This year year, other than Alex, Rebekah (Gulley) and Hana (Lindbloom), I'm not sure."
Sullivan said the uncertain nature of the team may be an advantage, too. It could allow former doubles players to shine alone, former junior varsity players to grab the spotlight or fresh-faced rookies to cut a path.
Only two things are hammered in stone at this point. Prosser, who just missed on her bid to compete at the state tournament last season, will return as the team's top singles player. She spent 2005 as the co-No. 1 with the graduated Lauren Hampton, and has all the skills necessary to lock down the position now that she's on her own, Sullivan aid.
"She's definitely the type of player, who as a senior could not only qualify for state, but make a pretty good run," Sullivan said. "She's talented enough that not only should she get there, she should win some matches. There were players there last year that came from other regionals that she was better than."
The other certain is that junior Rebekah Gulley and sophomore Hana Lindbloom will return to play as the team's top doubles pair. Last year they duo finished third at state.
After that though, it's up in the air, Sullivan said.
Junior Hannah Konetzni played on varsity all last season, but lost her partner when Stephanie Hoover graduated. Now she's left to decide between trying to pick up a new partner or go it alone and play singles.
"I may have to toy with it both ways," Sullivan said. "If she goes doubles, who will be her partner? If she goes singles, who's going to play doubles? That may be something we change throughout the year until we find that mix."
The team won't have to wait long to begin its experimenting. The Cats will travel Aug. 24 to Topeka for a quadrangular against Haden, Gardner Edgerton and Wamego.
One week later De Soto will play one of its three home dates of the season when it battles intra-district rival, Mill Valley.