By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – After getting thrown to the wolves last season, Bedford North Lawrence tennis is hungry like the wolf, in touch with the groundstrokes and on the hunt down for wins and respect.
The Stars had to survive with inexperience last season, bouncing to a 9-9 record while learning on the run. Now, with six veterans back for a second shot, BNL is poised for success. They are no longer sheep.
In fact, there’s a looming battle for the seven spots in the starting rotation. That’s the kind of competition that creates a decision headache for coach Joni Stigall but strengthens the fabric of the program.
“They’re all very competitive,” Stigall said. “They all want a spot, they know they have to fight for it, and they’re willing to work for it. It’s hard for me because I have to make decisions. But for the team it’s a good place to be.
“We have about 10 girls for those seven spots, so it could be something where, if somebody struggles one night, somebody else might get in there the next. They’re all showing that good effort.”
BNL’s singles lineup returns intact with junior Presley Clark, junior Alex Godsey and sophomore Kiara Terry (who posted a sectional victory at No.3 last season). They got their first taste of varsity competition last year.
“Last year I just got thrown in it,” Clark said. “I wasn’t sure how good the people were. Now I have a feel and better understanding of what it’s like. I expect a lot from us.”
In doubles, senior Abby Riley will have to find a new teammate to keep the No.1 spot. Last year she worked well with kindred spirit McKenzie Messmore.
“We worked well because we were both crazy enough to put up with each other,” Riley said. “Now it’s finding somebody who mellows me out. It’s the personality, it’s making sure you click on a lower level than just tennis.”
Sarah Gaither and Abbey Bridges are back as a No.2 doubles unit, but there will be some shifting if junior Angelica Godsey, senior Zoe Ueltschi and junior Molly Simmerman can power their way into playing time. That upperclass experience – and summer workouts that raised the level of seriousness – is already paying off.
“We’re not having to reteach things, like the basics, which is nice,” Stigall said. “We can actually move on to more target things. We look better already, and that’s promising. They worked. And I can see that.”
The Stars will open the regular season at home with Barr-Reeve on April 1.