Lady Leafs set sights on conference crown

Amy Carton
Bailey Conard will return to the Lady Leaf tennis team for her senior season.

With half of the varsity team from last year returning and some new young talent coming in, the Geneseo girls’ tennis team hopes this will provide them with healthy competition which will only make the team better in the long run.

“I think we have a good mix of experience and inexperience,” said head coach Dan Putman. “We have a few freshmen and sophomores who could really challenge for a varsity position. Once they get more experience then I think we will see some interesting competition going on.”

Coach Putman believes the keys to this team’s success this year will be how his team’s younger talent matures over the year.

“If they can really start to challenge and push their game up that will really help everyone out,” he said. “If some of the younger talent can play up we will be 12 deep on the varsity roster so we can mix people around. Great competition will make us a better team.”

This year’s class of seniors is a large group that has played significant time. Seniors include: Michelle Legatzke, Clare Possin, Bailey Conard, Rori Westerlund, Alissa Zobrist, Catherine Trujillo, Taylor Price, Maddie Henderson and Hannah Clementz.

“This group has the ability to help the team develop,” said Putman. “I hope they will be strong leaders, and if they lose to a freshman or sophomore who takes their spot, I want them to take the opportunity to be a leader and help out the others as well as themselves. I am looking for great positive leadership skills (from the seniors).”

As for the juniors, coach Putman wants that class to continue to improve, stay hungry and try to challenge for positions. This year’s juniors are: Hope Daly, Jessi Daly, Cassidy Bos, Sydney McCright, Vanessa Ritter, Gabby Wright, Makayla Humphrey, Daryn Brants and Brittany Bailey.

“I want the juniors to look to get better for next year and be at the top of their game as seniors,” he said. “I want them to think about getting better no matter what happens.”

Last season, this year’s sophomores saw a lot of time playing at the upper level on the F/S squad and this season coach Putman believes this group will really push the juniors and seniors. The sophomore class includes: Morgan Miller, Tarah Fisher, Grace Madigan, McKinsey Walters, MaKenna Stephenson, Maddy Shoemaker, Bibiana Curry, Olivia Carroll, Karen Wheeler and Courtnie Wright.

“Even though they may be less experienced they are hungry,” he said. “They are a real hungry group, and it is just a matter of getting experience. The sophomores have the ability, but they are still learning the game. Fine tuning and getting experience will be key.”

Coach Putman looks for this year’s freshman class to learn the game and get better. Geneseo’s freshmen members are: Ally Kelin, Paige Gramling, Erin Starkey, Amy Wethington, Cameron Oney, Kaysey Bos, Savanna Anast, Abigail Zobrist and Renee Rumler.

“I want them to work toward next year and the year after that,” he said. “As long as they are better at the end of the year that is what we look for. A lot of the freshmen came to open hitting over the summer and that is a great positive sign. They want to play and want to get better. This is another good athletic group of kids and good competitors.”

A big strength for the Lady Leafs this season will be the healthy competition the girls will provide in practice.

“We have a lot of young, hungry talent that wants to challenge for varsity positions which will lead to great competition and will make everyone work harder,” said Putman. “It will make us better because they will want to play more and I think they will push each other more. I hope it brings up the level of intensity.”

A challenge for Geneseo will be finding the right spot for the girls on the team since half of the varsity team is returning.

Coach Putman said his goals for this year’s squad are to win conference and get a few more girls down to the state finals.

“We’ve been in the middle for the last few years (in the conference), but our team is coming around,” he said. “We were young and now we are older, and I think we have a chance to win conference. I think, as a program, we can continue to build up a reputation of sending girls to state and being competitive.”

As far as the outlook of the conference this year, coach Putman said Geneseo’s side of the conference is up for grabs, but the other side is stronger.

Last season, Legatzke was the team’s lone state qualifier and lost both matches at state. She placed third at Moline Sectionals to advance to state.

The Lady Leafs open the 2013 campaign at UT at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 27.