FAIRMONT - Arriving early to practice.
Picking up the tennis balls near the end of the day without being told.
Staying a few minutes after practice to work on serves and service returns without prompting.
SERVING ACES — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal boys tennis team opening the season by traveling to Spirit Lake, Iowa, today include, front row (l-r): Shawn Busche, Seth Carlmark, Ben Hernes, Kellen Rodriguez, Tom Havnen, Austin Becker, Tyler Head, Isaac Donnelly, Andy Hagen, Carter Klanderud and Tony Joseph. Middle row: Calvin King, Shawn Patterson, Joe Washa, Grant Becker, Sterlin Johnson, Joshua Vannatter, Nick Gerhardt, Ryan Busche and Broderick O’Rourke. Back row: Student assistant Andrea Carstensen, head coach Eric Johnson, Bruno Beidacki, Alex Kopischke, Andrew Johnson, Mitchel Anderton, Alex Nelson, James Viesselman, assistant coach Jeff Nauman and student assistant Haleigh Gerhardt. (Photo by Chip Pearson)
Fairmont tri-captains Shawn Patterson, Alex Kopischke and Grant Becker will look to help the Cardinals' roster combine the above intangibles with a diligent work ethic into victories this tennis campaign.
"We have to work on getting better each and every day," said Cardinal mentor Eric Johnson, whose lineup travels to Spirit Lake, Iowa, today for its season-opener. "It's about working on all of the little things and limiting the mistakes.
"We certainly have a lot of potential on this team."
Kopischke, Patterson and Becker return to the courts after gaining valuable experience by competing in the Section 2A Individual Meet last spring.
Ironically, the talented trio played doubles in the 2011 postseason, but will contend for the top three spots in this season's singles bracket.
While Patterson and Kopischke played doubles earlier in their lengthy varsity careers, the pair of seniors competed primarily in the singles ranks a year ago.
Becker, a hard-hitting junior, also has competed on both sides of the court and should make a smooth transition to primarily singles in 2012.
While Becker, Kopischke and Patterson will anchor the singles bracket, Eric Johnson anticipates senior Bruno Beidacki - a foreign exchange student from Brazil - filling the No. 4 singles position.
"We know he has good footwork," a smiling assistant coach Jeff Nauman said in reference to Beidacki, who proved a standout on the Cardinals' soccer team last fall.
The junior tandem of J.T. Viesselman and Joe Washa, along with freshman Sterlin Johnson and sophomore Andrew Johnson, return to the courts with varsity experience on their resumes.
Those four netters will likely form Fairmont's first and second doubles teams in some variation.
"The third doubles spot is up for grabs, with five or six players in the competitive mix to fill it," said Eric Johnson.
Eric Johnson anticipates freshman Ryan Busche and eighth-graders Jake Kallenbach and Austin Becker vying for the open spot in the lineup.
"We've been doing some different things in doubles in practice this year, so we'll see how that works out," said Eric Johnson.
Fairmont will play host to South Central Conference opponent New Ulm in its home-opener at Cardinal Courts at 4:30 p.m. Thursday before adding a home triangular to the schedule on Saturday.
"We're trying something new with Winona Cotter and Luverne playing here on Saturday," Eric Johnson said in reference to the 10 a.m. event in Fairmont. "(Former Blue Earth standout) Blake Duden coaches at Cotter now and welcomed the chance to play back in the area."
In addition to Jeff Nauman returning as Eric Johnson's assistant coach, Cardinal prep players Haleigh Gerhardt and Andrea Carstensen have loaned their tennis knowledge and skills to the boys program this spring.
"Haleigh and Andrea have really been a big help in working with some of our younger players," said Eric Johnson. "I think we have a number of players with an upside. ... Overall, I think the future of our program looks good."