Fairmont netters set for opener

FAIRMONT – Figuring out which players will compete at the varsity level and where each netter fits into the lineup will be a bit of a work in progress for third-year Fairmont head girls tennis coach Kathy Krezel.

While Krezel returns four court-savvy veterans – senior captains Sophie Shelgren and Shantel Quist, along with juniors Abby Fitzgerald and Ellie Tonder – from last fall’s Section 3A runner-up team, finding the right chemistry in the singles and doubles brackets will be the first task at hand this fall.

“One of our goals is to improve point-by-point, match-by-match and day-by-day as the season progresses,” said Krezel, who guided the Cardinals to an impressive 16-4 dual-meet record last season on the heels of a 10-6 mark and section team semifinal appearance in 2012. “I’m sure that what we’re going to look like (lineup-wise) at the end of the season likely won’t resemble what we look like right now.

“We’ve had the girls playing challenge matches over the last two days (Wednesday and Thursday) in practice, so that should help us evaluate where everyone fits into the lineup – at least to start out with anyway.”

The hard-hitting Shelgren and angle-finding Fitzgerald combined to generate a winning record at No. 1 doubles last fall, but Krezel and assistant coach Eric Johnson may opt to move the varsity veterans to singles action when the Cardinals travel to Mound Westonka for their 8:30 a.m. season-opening dual meet on Tuesday.

Quist, who generated an impressive 16-7 record at No. 2 doubles a year ago, might make the transition to singles, while Tonder will likely remain in solo action after producing 11 victories from the No. 4 spot last fall.

“We lost six players to graduation and all of them had played on the varsity for a number of years, so there’s been a bit of an adjustment (period) in taking over the team’s leadership roles by our returning varsity players. I think Sophie and Shantel have done a nice job of stepping into those new roles as captains during our first week of practice,” said Krezel.

In addition to Quist, Shelgren, Fitzgerald and Tonder, Krezel anticipates senior newcomer Anna Hernes, along with sophomore Lauren Carlson and junior Madisyn Plumhoff, contending for spots in the Cardinals’ starting varsity lineup this campaign.

“Both Lauren and Madisyn have a little varsity experience from last season, and will figure into the mix this fall,” Krezel said in reference to two of Fairmont’s top junior varsity netters from 2013.

“Anna has done a nice job of picking up the strokes and her conditioning is outstanding. Now she just needs to work on the strategy part of the game,” said Krezel.

Krezel also expects the junior quartet of Leah Fortune, Hayley Fogelson, Anagha Komaragiri and Kaitlyn Cihoski – along with eighth-graders Brittany Bass and Sydney Hainy – to compete for time on the varsity courts this season.

“I think for the most part that the girls’ mechanics are good to this point, but knowing where to place their shots, hitting a variety of strokes and using the whole court are aspects that we still need to work on,” said Krezel. “We’ve also been working on our serving – placement, spin and speed – in addition to improving our footwork.”

Fairmont will put its skills to the test against Maple River in its home-opener at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cardinal Courts.