TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute South is coming off a trip to the girls high school tennis state finals and freshman phenom Lauren Hambrock joins the mix this season.
But Terre Haute North has plenty of talent returning, earning the Patriots a ranking among the state’s top 30 teams.
Considering the two city rivals split a pair of meetings last season — and that it’s almost always an ultra-competitive battle — fans of the respective programs should expect nothing less than some intriguing tennis matches this season.
Following are a rundown of the Big Four squads:
• Northview — Coach Emily Goff referred to the 2012 season as a rebuilding year as the Knights finished third in the Western Indiana Conference but still won a sectional crown.
“We had 13 new girls last year so it was definitely a rebuilding year. It’s looking a lot better this year. We have four returning varsity players. And the other three are extremely athletic and have put a lot of time in during the offseason. I’m hoping to see big things from them,” Goff said.
Senior Haley Leach returns at No. 1 singles after going through some growing pains at the tough position last year.
“She struggled a little bit last year, but her confidence is much higher this year. We’re excited to see what happens,” Goff said.
Senior and fellow co-captain Nicole Linton also returns at No. 2 singles.
“She had a really good season. Only winner at the regionals last year,” Goff said.
Sophomore Kaysia Reberger played doubles last season and will make the move to No. 3 singles.
“She’s been committed during the summer and offseason. This group of girls is definitely an extremely hard working group of girls,” Goff said. “Very committed and dedicated.”
Sophomore Hannah Minor will play No. 1 doubles after a strong junior varsity season in 2012. She’ll be joined in some form at doubles by sophomore Ramey Miller, junior Jessica Baker and junior Shelby Timberman.
Goff added that she’s got an athletic group of freshmen out this season among the 10 newcomers.
The Knights had a strong run of six straight WIC titles prior to the past two seasons.
“We are hoping to get the title back. We hope this is the year we get back to winning it,” Goff said.
• Terre Haute North — Second-year coach Jeff Farmer is excited to coach all 33 girls on his roster, but forgive him for being particularly thrilled to have plenty of veterans returning to his varsity lineup.
Senior Anna Potter, who will join sister Sarah in playing for NAIA Marian University next year, returns at No. 1 singles. She’s joined by junior Laura Mascari at No. 2 singles and senior Morgan Cook at No. 3 singles.
Potter and Cook are four-year varsity starters, while Mascari enters her third year as a varsity starter.
The veteran Patriots have worked hard in the offseason, Farmer said.
“They’ve been playing indoors all winter,” Farmer said. “Some of have played some tournaments. Anna has improved on her game.
“They’ve all worked hard in conditioning.”
Several talented underclassmen could also make it a memorable season for North.
Sophomore Olivia Caldwell played No. 1 doubles last season, and she could be joined by sophomore Caroline Potter in the lineup in that position.
“We’ve been outdoors five days. With challenge matches and weather, we haven’t been able to do much doubles practice,” Farmer said.
Carmen Nichols, who played some varsity last year is also in the mix along with freshman Meredith Egan and senior Rosemary Weber.
“We started conditioning on Jan. 4, so even though we haven’t been outside, our girls are going to be ready to play,” Farmer said.
• Terre Haute South — Coach Bill Blankenbaker has plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but the No. 1 reason is Lauren Hambrock, who brings a surplus of tournament success to her high school debut.
“She’ll be at No. 1 singles, that’s for sure,” Blankenbaker said.
With that being said, varsity veterans such as junior Nicole Howe, sophomore Shivani Purohit, senior Tabitha Fagg, senior Miranda Camp, sophomore Jordan Davis and junior Vanessa Lauby give Blankenbaker an outstanding core of returnees to rely upon.
“I really think the team is giong to be just as strong or stronger than last year,” Blankenbaker said.
Exactly where those girls will be in the lineup is up in the air at this point. Practice time has been sparse so the Braves, like several other Wabash Valley teams, could be a work in progress.
Courtney Sheets moves up from junior varsity and senior Ashley Ray has improved a lot, Blankenbaker added. Freshmen Sofia Saylor and Kyla Jarvis are also potential contributors.
“I think North will be strong too,” Blankenbaker said. “I like my chances. Lauren is a really big boost to our team. I’m anxious to see her play in a match. I haven’t really seen her play in too many matches.”
• West Vigo — The Vikings have more than 20 girls on the squad for a second straight season.
He returns senior Kaylen Cheesman, who seized the No. 1 singles spot last season.
“She’s played some in the offseason and she’s looking good,” coach Doug Tilford said.
As for the rest of the squad, “I sort of know where I’ll be for next week. I expect things to change,” he said.
Senior Sydney Brown will be on one of the doubles teams, and junior McKenzie Collins hopes to build upon her 2012 varsity performances at singles and doubles.
Sophomore Mikayla Herring will play varsity this season after playing junior varsity a year ago.
Tilford expects a trio of freshmen to play a lot of varsity matches this season as well. Justice Waltermeyer, Saarah Wyrick and Payton McCall are going to make their varsity debuts.
“We have a lot of young girls out. That’s really encouraging to have all those freshman girls,” Tilford said. “We lost some varsity from last year, but it’s going to be a stronger season than last year.”