It’s now or never for the girls' tennis team.
Or, at least it is for the six seniors who will fill the vast majority of the varsity positions this year. Coming off a seven-win season filled with missed opportunities, the Eagles believe they have turned a corner and are ready to taste success on a more consistent basis this year.
“I want them to be the team I know they should be,” West Deptford coach Kelly Hernandez said. “You don’t want to be cocky, but there are some teams you play that you should not lose to.
"And I don’t just want the girls to just play well against the teams that are on the same level with us, I want them to go out thinking they can beat them. I’m hoping, as seniors who I have had for four years, this is their time.”
The contingency of seniors is led by Marthalyn Johnson, who returns to the No. 1 singles position for the second-straight year. Johnson held her own in her first year at the position, so big things are expected of her this time around.
“Last year Martha was .500, which was great for first year, so I am hoping this year she will push herself and have even more success,” said Hernandez.
The coach added that Johnson has seen great improvement with her shot development and movement.
Michelle Bower moves from No. 3 to No. 2 singles, while Katie Schober takes over the No. 3 slot. Schober started last season as a doubles player, but saw significant time at No. 3 singles when Bower went down with an injury. That experience should make for a smooth senior season.
“Katie stepped in for Michelle, so she has had that experience. I think she is going to do well and I know she will try her hardest,” Hernandez said. “She knows what to expect, so it won’t be a big surprise like it would be for someone going straight from doubles to singles. She has already had that transition period.”
While West Deptford doesn’t figure to be in the conversation for a conference title, their record should be better.
For the seniors, 2012 represents a last chance.
“Last season left a south taste in my mouth, and I wasn’t happy with the way the team went out every match,” Hernandez said. “I think this year they are staying positive and putting in the work in the off-season. They know they have potential this year to do something that they haven’t done in a couple years. Especially with the seniors, they want to end their career well, which is great.”
Below is a look at the 2012 West Deptford girls’ tennis team.
Coach: Kelly Hernandez
Last year’s record: 7-13
Returning letter winners: Marthalyn Johnson (sr.); Michelle Bower (sr.); Katie Schober (Sr.); Keriann Phleger (sr.) Lauren Szybiak (sr.) Eisha Granger (sr.).
Promising newcomers: Danille Melvic (so.); Mia Forbes (fr.).
Team to beat: Haddonfield
Outlook: With a core of six seniors, West Deptford should take a noticeable step forward this season. The goal is to go from be competitive with some of the better teams to beating them. Look for the Eagles to push towards a .500 record, if not above.
Three storylines to follow:
–How will doubles shape up?: Pfleger, Szybiak, Granger, Melvic and Forbes are all in the mix to play varsity doubles, but things are still be determined in terms of who will play together, and who will be left to work on JV. The scramble has been viewed both as a positive and negative for Hernandez. While she would like players to pull away from the field, she also knows that the completion is a good thing.
“I am happy, because anytime you have a strong team and good depth, it creates competition which makes players better,” she said. “But it is discouraging because no one has made the decision easy for me with their play.”
–The play of Bower at No. 2 singles. Bower suffered a concussion last year and . That lost time could hurt as she is moving up from No. 3 singles and will need to elevate her play to match the promotion. Hernandez is hopeful that what Bower missed in terms of experience, she can make up for with her athleticism.
“She is a little behind with her point development, but she is a great athlete,” Hernandez said. “That helps her out. She moves well on the court and is hitting the ball hard.”
–Not so many September trips on the bus. The team spent almost the entire first half of its 2011 season on the road, . The travel seemed to take a toll on the Eagles, as they got in a hole too deep to climb. This season, the team plays a schedule that is home-heavy for the first month, giving the Eagles a chance to get out of the gate fast and hopefully build momentum.