The Patriot tennis team returns to the court this week, and it does so with plenty of experience.
Monica Sergent, in her 16th year as coach of the Patriots, has amassed a career record 250-77 after a 22-2 season in 2018 that saw her team lose just its first match of the year before falling in the section finals to Virginia.
The team also finished 5-0 against its Mid-State Conference opponents, and won its fifth consecutive conference tournament.
This season’s team should look similar, as eight letterwinners return for the upcoming year for a Patriots team that bid farewell to just two seniors.
“It’s always nice to return some varsity-experienced players,” Sergent said. “They have experience handling pressure, which is always helpful.”
Among those letterwinners is senior Courtney Boller, who last season posted a record of 32-6 and qualified for the State Class A Individual Tournament. Her coach expects Boller’s success in 2018 to give her a boost in the new season.
“Her all-around game is very solid, but I think she will play with more confidence (in her senior year),” Sergent said. “She has always been strong defensively, but she learned a lot, and her offensive game improved a lot last year through experiencing that success. I think she will be a little more aggressive on offense.”
In addition to Boller, the Patriots have four other seniors - Alexa Fyle, Madeline Plumier, Elli Saxerud and Madeline Sherman - who will be expected to provide some seasoned leadership.
Sergent also has high expectations for juniors Afton Crocker and Morgan Lueck, both of whom will likely reach their 50th career victories early in the season.
Also expected to make big contributions are letterwinning sophomores Carly Chaney, RIley Fogarty and Megan Muller. Last season, Muller, in her first year with the Patriots, recorded 29 individual victories as the team’s No. 1 singles competitor.
Rounding out the returning varsity athletes are Quinn Trottier, Kelbee Lampi and Lexy Peterson.
“We are very deep,” Sergent said. “We will have well over 20 girls in our 9-12 program. With some, we are excited to see their growth and expect them to be in the mix for us.”
The Patriots are at a slight disadvantage compared to their fellow Pequot Lakes fall teams, as they were only allowed three days of practice before competition begins. However, weekly hitting sessions in June and July have Sergent believing the team is on the right track.
“They are all improving, every time out. What I am really pleased with is the more they play, the more consistent they are getting with their shots and serves. They are adding new shots and they are getting more confident with their ball placement.”
Though expectations are high for the season, Sergent wants her team to focus more immediate goals - winning the next match and improving with each practice.
“We try not to get ahead of ourselves,” Sergent said. “We have some new teams on our schedule, and we look forward to that because it keeps things interesting. We just want to enjoy the season as we go along.”
Chad Rudbeck is the Patriots’ assistant coach. At the middle level, Deanne Trottier returns for her fifth season as a coach, and Sean Bengtson replaces the retired Brenda Helmrichs.