A familiar face returns as head coach of the Brainerd Warrior girls' tennis team.
Marnie Whalen, head coach of the girls' team in 1993, returns to guide the program again. In addition, she was head coach of the Warrior boys' team for nine years and was an assistant in both programs.
"I've been helping out with other sports where my confidence level was not as strong," Whalen said. "It's just fun to be back doing the sport I love.
"It's also kind of fun to get to know these kids. Now that my kids have graduated and are gone this is a neat way to stay in touch with kids."
Whalen returns a team that will be extremely young and inexperienced and is coming off a 2-14 season in dual meets.
Head coach -- Marnie Whalen, 26th season (second in Brainerd)
Brainerd record --11-4
2003 finish -- 2-6 in CLC, 2-14 overall.
Captains -- Jessica Lofrano, Megan Owens.
Assistant coaches -- Chuck Whalen, Maria Stanek.
31-WILLMAR 2 p.m.
2-at St. Cloud Apollo 4:30 p.m.
7-at Rocori 4:30 p.m.
11-Camp Lake Hubert Inv. 9 a.m.
13-at Little Falls 4:30 p.m.
16-MOORHEAD 4:30 p.m.
18-BRAINERD INV. 9 a.m.
21-ST. CLOUD APOLLO 4:30 p.m.
23-at Willmar 4:30 p.m.
25-CLC tournament at St. Cloud 9 a.m.
27-LITTLE FALLS 4 p.m.
28-ROCORI 4;30 p.m.
30-at St. Cloud Tech 4:30 p.m.
5-SARTELL 4:30 p.m.
7-ALEXANDRIA 4:30 p.m.
Brainerd returns only seniors Megan Owens and Carolyn Despot who have subsection tournament experience. Owens played No. 3 singles in team competition; Despot played No. 3 doubles.
"We're going to be very inexperienced," Whalen said. "There will be a lot of learning going on."
Owens will captain the team along with senior Jessica Lofrano.
"Megan played a lot of golf this summer," Whalen said, "but the more I see her in practice the more impressed I am. She's a competitor. She comes to the net well. I think she will be a key player. I would expect her to be a top singles or a top doubles player because we will probably be the most inexperienced team in the conference.
"Jessica is doing post-secondary option so I haven't seen a lot of her, but the more I see her the more I like her as a player."
Whalen also likes what she has seen of Fanny Hagmeier, an exchange student from Germany, and freshman Kayla Huether.
"Fanny's only been in the country a couple weeks," Whalen said. "Maybe we can get her confidence going. She's got so many variables going (foreign country, language, etc.) right now but she's a nice player. She hits a nice ball."
Whalen was familiar with Huether's softball ability.
"I didn't know she was such a good tennis player," Whalen said. "She's such a competitor. According to (junior high coaches) Lisa Salo and Jan Costello, she won about everything she did in junior high.
"I can see her at the top of the lineup as a freshman. She has competitive strength right now."
Whalen also sees Despot and juniors Ariel Aakhus and Kristi Takasaki somewhere in the starting lineup.
The Warriors' coach hopes to start a summer program and believes the program will benefit from eight courts that will be available next fall at Forestview Middle School.
"Our kids haven't done a lot of tennis in summer," Whalen said. "That's a goal of mine. We need to look at some structure, pull in competitive athletic kids who play more than just nine weeks of our sport in the fall. It's going to take some time.
"When I coached in the Lake Conference area the kids who go to state are the kids you see playing in section tournaments for the USTA. They play tournaments all summer long."
Seniors -- Carolyn Despot, Fanny Hagmeier, Jessica Lofrano, Claire Northway, Megan Owens
Juniors -- Ariel Aakhus, Kristi Takasaki
Sophomores -- Abby Ahlberg, Erin Mustonen
Freshmen -- Amber Arnoldy, Ashley Bostrom, Jenna Haberman, Kayla Huether, Megan Jacobson, Cierra Johnson, Catherine Luckemeyer, Erica Mortensen, Natalie Reponen, Katie Ritter, Sammie Stenson, Samantha Underhill, Amanda Wiermer.
Mike Bialka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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