It’s a simple concept — if you love doing something, you’re more likely to do it well.

Chi-Hi girls tennis coach Stephanie Linzmeier is seeing that idea play out so far this fall with her Cardinal squad and it has the second-year coach optimistic about her team’s chances of success as they head for the second half of the season.

“I think early on the girls were really excited to be back,” Linzmeier said. “We have a strong group returning and then we have a lot of new people interested in tennis and they’re just excited.”

Those returners start with the team’s top two singles players Sarah Altmann and Abbie Reed. Altmann and Reed have each started strong this season, carrying winning records into play this week with Altmann (10-2) and Reed (10-7) tasked with matching up against the opponents best players each time out. Both Altmann and Reed’s strong play has not gone unnoticed from opposing coaches either.

“Both Sarah and Abbie have stepped up tremendously,” Linzmeier said. “Every coach we’ve played against has come up to me to comment positive things about both of them.”

Altmann recently returned to practice from an ankle injury and is on track to return to action this week in Big Rivers Conference matchups at home against River Falls on Tuesday and at Eau Claire North on Thursday.

In Altmann’s absence Reed moved up to the No. 1 singles spots and other players cycled into singles action and while those matches didn’t always result in wins, Linzmeier was very pleased with how her team stepped up in a tough situation.

“I was so proud of how they handled that because it was different for them and they just embraced it and they tried their best,” Linzmeier said. “It didn’t work out for them as far as pulling out a win but they grew so much.”

Marah Dunham has bounced between the No. 3 and No. 4 singles spot and also carries a winning record (9-8) through the first half while Maria Friedel is just under the .500 mark (4-5).

The doubles team of Chloe Exner and Mikayla Runge has played together in almost every dual in their first year together. Exner was a singles player last year but the duo has grown throughout the season and after a brief stint for Runge and Exner in singles during Altmann’s absence, Linzmeier said the duo is making great progress together.

“They’re very similar and they work well together,” Linzmeier said.

The teams of Ashley Hanley and Alexis Zenner (6-4) as well as Sammie Riedel and Mazie Jackan (5-4) have logged winning records in partial time together this year while the team of Maggie Burgess and Kayleigh Carotenuto have played together in as many matches as any duo on the team.

Chloe Adams is 2-3 in singles action and has also logged time at doubles for the Cardinals as well this fall.

Chi-Hi started the year strong in nonconference play and Linzmeier has liked what she’s seen from the team, even as the Cardinals have fallen in Big Rivers Conference action against some of the top teams like Eau Claire Memorial and Menomonie.

Last season against the Old Abes the Cardinals won a total of three points in their dual. This year the team bumped that number up to 18, a significant improvement against one of the best teams in the area.

“That shows our improvement over one year has been so strong,” Linzmeier said of the performance.

Despite losing a large 12-player senior class last season, the program has strong numbers with 44 total players out. With competition all around the lineup, Linzmeier believes big things are in store for the team as it hits the homestretch of the regular season.

“We just are super focused and dedicated which is amazing to see,” Linzmeier said.

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Chippewa Herald Sports Editor

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