JOHNSONBURG – Looking to improve on a 6-7 mark from last season, the Johnsonburg girls varsity tennis team will have "new faces in new places" this year but also a picture of consistency in lone senior Taylor Scida.
"She is, in my opinion, the best single player in Class A, the No. 1 player on our roster, and she has to go out and prove that she's the best, not just to everyone else but to herself as well," said fifth-year head coach Gregg Dauber. "I know she can do it, she just has to be mentally strong-- she really has every part of the game except for the mental part.
"She wants to win she just needs to not get down on herself during a match."
Scida, four-year player, has emerged as a team leader over the years and Dauber feels her chances of taking the district are more than good.
"She is definitely a team leader and it's kind of rare to have a four-year player but she's a team leader, takes control of practice, and that's what you need from your lone senior out of eight players," Dauber said. "With that number, there is really no leverage and no room to work with.
"Her chances of taking the district are very good with a lot of girls graduating and her being dedicated enough to stick with tennis for the last four years. If she plays like she knows how she can play, I know she can win it. I have that much confidence in her because she is that good."
The team's lone senior is backed by several underclassmen looking for a big season, including Riley Fannin, who "played a bulk of the doubles matches last year" and is currently a sophomore.
"With our youth, it could be a good year, it could be a long year, but if we all give our best we'll be OK," Dauber said. "I see the inexperience on the court and that could be what prevents us from having a great year.
"Some of the girls are shy and timid on the court-- but you can't do that-- you have to be aggressive and assertive on the court so that's one tough thing to deal with."
The team also faces a rough schedule through the fall including Bradford, DuBois and Punxsutawney, all Class AAA counterparts each played twice a year.
"DuBois really put it to us, we weren't even close and there really weren't any bright spots in that one," Dauber said. "We were both eager to play but we didn't pull through because of lack of experience and lack of knowledge of the game.
"Going into that match, we only had six days of practice and not all the girls were playing tennis all summer-- some of them didn't even know they'd be playing tennis until about two or three days before school started."
Rather than pinpoint a win-loss percentage, the veteran coach said improvement in the main goal.
"At the end of the season, I'd be happy with improvement regardless of what their record is. I want them to have fun and they should, but it's also a varsity sport so you have to step up and have some improvement," Dauber said. "We have to get better from that first match against DuBois. We weren't close on any of the games at all so we have to start with that.
"I'm looking forward to teaching some of the younger girls and they're all willing to learn, they all show up at practice, so it should be a fun season and they're working hard."