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Girls’ Tennis Preview: Tigers’ top two unmatched

by Joey Crandall

Few times, if ever, in the history of Northern Nevada high school tennis has one team been able to put its top two players on the court and say without a doubt that each player was getting to practice against the best player in the region.

But that’s exactly the case at Douglas High this year. The past three regional titles have gone to either senior Amelia Ritger (regional champ in 2007 and ’08) or sophomore Kari TenBroeck (2009 champ).

“It’s an amazing luxury,” Douglas tennis coach Roger Rusmisel said. “You’re going into every match with the confidence that against most teams in the Northern 4A, you know you’ll have at least six points in the match.

“Both girls have that kind of track record of delivering when we need them to. That’s a great place to start.”

Indeed, the duo posted a combined 79-6 record overall (79-4 in Northern Nevada) last season and Ritger enters her final high school season with a 109-5 career record. She won her first 70 Northern Nevada matches before falling against Galena’s Mica Olsen last season.

TenBroeck improved as the year progressed last year before a remarkable.

run through the regional tournament that culminated with upsetting Ritger in the final.

“We really aren’t worried too much about who is No. 1 and who is No. 2 heading into the year,” Rusmisel said. “It doesn’t make any difference during the season. Everyone has to play everyone else in the team matches and with our team, we expect that both girls will be playing all three of their sets each time out.

“They are both the types that don’t want the rest. They want to play. And we’ll probably need them to play in a lot of cases. We haven’t determined the order yet, and we may switch it up throughout the year based on who we are playing. It’ll be more strategic in terms of how to attack the overall lineup than anything else.”

The two possess polar opposite styles, which Rusmisel said has been beneficial to both becoming more complete players.

“One of things I saw as last season went on was Kari was adopting some of the things she saw from Amelia in practice, just in not relying on her power game as much but becoming more methodic and strategic,” Rusmisel said. “She got more consistent as the year went on and became more opportunistic in how she played her points.

“Amelia had the opportunity to play with someone who hits as hard as Kari every day, and she started finding more room in her game for the power plays. It was beneficial to both girls. On one side you had one of the strongest hitters in the area, and on the other you had one of the most strategic and deliberate players. They started to combine their styles to make it very hard for their opponents to prepare for just one thing.”

As a team, Douglas enjoyed a breakout season, going 12-0 through the Northern 4A schedule, including a landmark win over Galena and a regular-season-finale upset of perennial powerhouse Reno High before falling in the regional final to the Huskies.

Douglas loses five of nine regular starters, however, and will enter the season with three new starting doubles pairings.

“Like I said, in most matches, we know we’ll have six points,” Rusmisel said. “The catch is going to be finding four more wins in the rest of the lineup to take some of these dual matches.

“The talent is definitely there, but we are looking for the depth now. The good news is that a lot of other teams in the area are in the same boat. Spanish Springs graduated 11 seniors. McQueen lost all nine starters. Galena lost its best players.

“Reno is reloaded and better than ever, though, so they will be very tough no matter what.”

Rusmisel said he is looking at teaming junior Sarah Weaver, who went 27-8 in the No. 2 doubles slot with her sister Emily, up with senior Katie Sawicki (12-8 in the No. 3 slot with Susie White) as the No. 1 doubles pairing this season.

“I think they could be a really good squad,” Rusmisel said.

Rochelle Seymour and Zoe VanDerByl, who both lettered last season playing as a doubles pairing, should slide into the No. 2 slot.

“They had a couple wins, but when you look at their scores, they really didn’t give up many easy sets,” Rusmisel said. “They’ve gotten better in the offseason and should be a strong pairing for us.”

In the third slot, Rusmisel said he’s hoping to catch lightning in a bottle after the success he saw from bringing athletes in from other varsity sports last season (Emily Weaver – softball, Susie White – basketball, track).

He’ll look to varsity softball standouts Chelsea Fent and Amanda Caras to form the No. 3 doubles squad.

“They’re new to the game, but they bring a level of athleticism and competitiveness that is very hard to match,” Rusmisel said. “I have high hopes for them.”

We have four freshmen and a couple of first-year seniors, so we’ll be trying to bring them along as the season progresses. It’s nice with the freshman because you can bring them in on the ground floor and develop their game from there. “

The team has been working out since July and had some volunteer assistant help from some of last year’s players, including Jamie Lundergreen, Susie White, Gabby Buma and Emily Weaver.

Weaver, who is attending Western Nevada College this season, has stuck around to be an assistant coach.

“I’m excited to have the help,” Rusmisel said. “That was a tough group of seniors to lose. They were so competitive and we were like family. It’s good to have one of them back with the team.

“Most of the girls have spent a few weeks developing some skills and forming the nucleus of a team. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do.”