After losing eight senior girls a year ago, Manhattan High tennis coach Joyce Allen knew it would be difficult to replenish her roster this fall.
With just 14 girls out and just one returning senior, she didn’t anticipate this.
“I think it’s a good group,” Allen said. “I’m looking forward to it. All we can do is go up from here. We lost a lot of seniors last year, and so that’s part of the reason our numbers are down. When you have eight seniors leave, it really cuts.”
Allen said she’s surprised more girls didn’t come out, especially those who would have been seniors this year. Most of those who did not return chose other activities.
“It’s a lot more fun as a senior,” she said. “There are some different perks and things like that. So I can understand it, but I’m just sad when kids choose not to come out.”
The good news for the program is those that did return are set to compete at the highest level. Both singles players, Kristin Fraley and Cathy Lei, qualified for state and are back this year. The other returning lettermen is senior Caroline Sager.
Fraley went 2-2 last year at state, while Lei came in as a No. 6 seed and went 0-2.
“They’re anxious to get going and get back in there,” Allen said of her state qualifiers.
The team will also welcome in a senior newcomer in Bianca Pedrozo, a transfer student from Brazil.
“We have a new senior, Bianca Pedrozo, she’s from Brazil, but she’s not a foreign-exchange student here,” Allen said. “The exciting thing was, she brought her own racket. I get foreign-exchange students all the time, but they don’t bring their own rackets because they’re not important to them or they haven’t played as much.
“They play club down there, so we’re really happy to have her. She has lovely strokes.”
In today’s season opener, Manhattan will face off against Topeka High with each of the six varsity players playing both singles and doubles. Allen said the meet may give her some clarity as to who she leaves at singles and who will pair up at No. 1 doubles in the future.
“We’re trying to decide what to do, as far as that goes,” Allen said. “We have some injury issues with a couple of girls. I’m going to put Cathy and Kristin together at No. 1 doubles (today). We’ll have a playoff in singles with the top four to see where they fall.”
Rounding out the varsity squad will be newcomers Tracy Le and Pajsoua Lo. Le is a sophomore who did not play last year, while Lo is a freshman. The pair are likely to land at No. 2 doubles.
“Those two girls will have a trial by fire,” Allen said. “They’re still really sweet, but they just don’t know what’s out there.”
Chuck Kipp, who took an administrator position at Garden City over the summer, was the JV girls coach a season ago, so retired boys’ coach Bob Kelly pegged as the replacement.
“He has very kindly said he would come in and help this fall,” Allen said. “I know Mike Marsh would like someone who is teaching, but Bob knows the drill.”
As always, Allen said this year’s goal is to take the whole team to state.
“Last year, we came close to taking everybody to state,” she said. “It was really close at regionals and that’s always our goal, to improve each meet and take the whole group to state. It’s always possible, and we’ve got a really good group of girls.
“A small group, but a good group.”