The Menomonie girls tennis team is hitting the reset button this season.
After losing six from the varsity lineup a season ago, Menomonie coach Wendy Hastings in her 36th year leading the program is looking to rebuild another core group of players.
The Mustangs are 9-10 overall and 1-2 in the Big Rivers so far this season. Menomonie defeated Chippewa Falls on Tuesday before a loss to River Falls on Thursday. The Mustangs also dropped a dual to Eau Claire Memorial in its Big Rivers opener.
“When you come off a successful as season as we’ve had the last three years you got to have some years where you got to build it back up again, and that’s what we’re doing,” Hastings said.
No. 1 doubles team of Lexi Hastings and Lindsey Johnson were each first team all-conference a season ago while advancing to the state tournament where the duo took seventh. No. 1 singles player Jennifer Radlel who was an all-conference second team selection, also graduated. McKenna Thomas and Megan Lewis at No. 2 doubles and Corinne O’Dell at No. 3 singles must also be replaced.
Senior captains Olivia Leipnitz, Lauren Flaschenriem and Carly Witucki have taken to leadership roles for Mustangs this season. Leipnitz played at No. 2 singles last year and was a second team all-conference selection. This season she moved to the top singles spot. Flaschenriem took third place at the Big Rivers tournament last year at No. 4 singles and then went on to take first place at sectionals. Witucki has joined Flaschenriem to form Menomonie’s No. 1 doubles team.
“They ran open tennis nights all summer long. They have done so much and they’re always asking what else they can do,” Hastings said of the captains. “They’re not just captains in name, they’re truly leading this team.”
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Menomonie has looked to its junior class to fill much of the openings left from last year. Haley Hastings has played at No. 3 singles, Brooke Evan and Lindsee Kaufman have teamed up at No. 3 doubles and Ava Zaborske has grouped together with sophomore Kierce Hemauer at No. 2 doubles. Sophomore Emma Hastings has filled the No. 2 singles spot.
Although inexperienced, Coach Hastings has been impressed by the commitment many on the team made over the offseason as they looked to fill the shoes of talented seniors no longer with the program.
“The thing I’m so please at is this group has more kids that travel over to Eau Claire and do the ACE lessons and the privates, and the junior team tennis and that’s a big commitment from these kids to not only pay the money but to transport themselves 30 minutes (to Eau Claire),” Hastings said.
Eau Claire Memorial remains the favorite to continue its dominance of the conference but Hastings said Hudson could challenge the Old Abes at the top of the standings. Hastings looks for the Mustangs to be in the mix with the remainder of the teams for third place.
While Menomonie rebuilds this season Hastings looks for steady improvement throughout the season. While last year’s group featured many multi-year varsity contributors this season many players are seeing their first action at the varsity level.
“I think we have to fight hard for every win we get, unfortunately we’ve had quite a few 3-4 losses and it’s just inexperience,” Hastings said. “It’s just kids out there not winning tie breaks and it’s kids out there that just don’t have the experience they need to rise to that next level of competitiveness, and that’s my hope for them as all these matches we have they’re getting better and better with every match that they play.
“I’m just hoping by the end of the season we are competitive.”