by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARKâ€”Second-year coach Tim Larsen has to deal with a lineup that sees personnel like Emma Anderson, Katie Hatch, Anna Rossi, Kristen Sanecki and Jen Zmrhal gone to graduation.
Larsen, however, returns several girls to the Lady Knights tennis squad that look to make good on opportunities created by the vacancies.
While singles and doubles slots are yet to be completely decided, Larsen feels that the initial practices were going well.
â€œI feel really good about it,â€ Larsen said about the current setup.
The intangible quality Larsen is most impressed with?
â€œA lot of leadership. They were here for four years and had (Cindy) Miller as varsity coach. But we have eight seniors returning this year, and I feel very good that we can be competitive this year,â€ Larsen said.
Liz Webb was singled out by Larsen has having good prospects coming into the season and has played throughout the year.
â€œI really do think sheâ€™s going to fill the void that Katie Hatch left,â€ Larsen said.
Varsity singles option Lindsay Jurcenko comes back for a second straight year after playing volleyball in the lower-class days.
Gone from the doubles and captains front are Sanecki and Zmrhal.
â€œThey were captains along with Emma and kind of held the team together. Just having girls like Jen and Kristen around was a calming influence for everybody else,â€ Larsen said.
Kelsey Lenhardt and Liz Webb, doubles tandem a year ago, also make their return to the Lady Knight court in 2009.
Olivia Emmanouil, No.1 singles player from a year ago, returns, as does the doubles duo of Tessa Kuipers and Mel Mazuc.
For whatever kinks need to be worked out in the game, time will be saved on having to garner court time and experience.
â€œ(The) really rewarding thing is that weâ€™re just ironing out little bugs at this stage, just working on the little things with the returning players. It helps that I could be their coach when they were freshmen and again as seniors,â€ Larsen said.
The personnel representing Kaneland will continue to work toward improving on last seasonâ€™s fortune, even with new faces.
â€œI want to go into matches thinking â€˜we can win this,â€™â€ Larsen said.
This upcoming season marks the last in the short history of the Western Sun Conference, an arrangement which more often than not, gave KHS fits on the court.
â€œI feel good and bad about it. I think weâ€™re still going to play Geneva and Batavia, and they serve kind of a measuring stick. Iâ€™d like to see as we continue to grow and improve, to see how we measure up against those teams in the future,â€ Larsen said.
The season serves up its first contest on Monday, Aug. 24, at Marmion Academy as Kaneland battles Rosary at 4:30 p.m.
The first conference battle is vs. Batavia on Thursday, Sept. 10, at 4:30 p.m., with the final regular season matchup at the Western Sun Conference tournament in Geneva on Saturday, Oct. 10.