FAIRMONT - Last season, first-year Fairmont head girls tennis coach Kathy Krezel didn't know what to expect from a squad that did not have a senior.
After the Cardinals compiled a 10-6 record capped by an appearance in the Section 2A Team Meet semifinals, Krezel and her six seniors feel they can set their goals high for this season.
"I think that we are all excited for this season coming up. Everyone across the board has improved so much since last season, it's exciting," said Krezel, whose lineup opens its schedule by traveling to Le Sueur today for a triangular with host Le Sueur-Henderson and Blue Earth Area.
ACES RETURN — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals girls tennis lineup opening the season by competing in the Le Sueur-Henderson triangular at 9:30 a.m. today include, front row (l-r): Jill Paris, Lydia Thatcher, Madison Hagen, Emily O’Connor, Madyson Plumhoff, Chloe Graif, Makena Rodriguez, Aubrey Green and Shantel Quist. Middle row: Anagha Komaragiri, Hayley Fogelson, Kaitlyn Cihoski, Abby Fitzgerald, Andrea Carstensen, Missy Viesselman, Allison Moeller, JoJo Kelley, Ellie Tonder and Leah Fortune. Back row: Head coach Kathy Krezel, Briana Gratz, Chloe Diekmann, Lauren Carlson, Sophie Shelgren, Sydney Hainy, Holly Petrowiak, Morgan Cihoski, Marina Speckman, assistant coach Eric Johnson and Natalie Abel. Not pictured: Micaela Gochanour. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Aubrey Green, Allison Moeller, Missy Viesselmann, Jill Paris, Andrea Carstensen and Briana Gratz will return to the courts for their senior seasons this fall.
"Coming into this season, we were excited because of the leadership that these seniors bring to the team," said Krezel. "They are willing to work hard, but they are also focused on helping the younger players to get better for next year."
Sophomore Abby Fitzgerald and junior Sophie Shelgren will rejoin Fairmont's six seniors at the Cardinal Courts after playing doubles last season, while sophomore Ellie Tonder and the junior tandem of Shantel Quist and Micaela Gochanour will contend for the final varsity spots.
"We've got two or three players that we are thinking could be the fourth singles player, but we haven't made any decisions yet on the final roster," said Krezel. "We have been working with those top 11 players on both doubles and singles strategies so that wherever we put them they will be successful."
Coming off a double-digit victory season, the Cardinals are hoping to continue their climb up the South Central Conference ranks and earn a championship.
"We have got high goals for ourselves this season. We know that St. James and Waseca will be tough matches, but if we come out and play tough from the beginning of the season, we could have a chance," said Krezel.
After today's season-opener, the Cardinals will battle their way through a schedule that features just six home matches.
"Our seniors understand after last season how important winning each match can be for section seeding. We were a lower seed than Luverne just because of one or two matches," said Krezel. "So this year we've talked about wanting to win matches and not just by one point. We want to be aggressive in every match from the beginning of the season to hopefully get a better seed later on."
The difference of a year could mean more success for the senior-led Cardinals, with the goal of a championship pushing the girls even harder on the court.
"As a coach, I feel so much more relaxed this season because I know who a lot of the girls are now. I think this will be a great season with our team, regardless of the outcome," said Krezel.