By Becky Walz,
Girls who played as freshmen or sophomores will be asked to step into varsity roles on the Decorah girls’ tennis team this season, after the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“Having lost a year of coaching and competition, we lost any type of consistency that had been generated before last year’s season was cancelled,” said Head Coach Larry Berland, who has been with the program for 44 years. “To be quite honest, I do not know what to expect in regard to filling a line-up.”
Berland will be joined on the court by assistants Miriam Skrade, Phil Yee and Kristi Schilling.
So much lost
In 2019, Decorah’s determined mindset pushed the Vikes to a pair of regional team victories and on to the regional final, besting Osage and Independence. Decorah was unable to extend its season as it lost the regional final to Cedar Rapids Xavier. Mara Frieden punched her ticket to state as the runner-up in singles action as the Vikes’ No. 1 competitor.
At state, Frieden won her first match in a pair of 7-5 games, then was paired against the previous years’ champion to close out her season and high school career.
Others now absent from the 2019 line-up from graduation include Soleil Smith, Sophie Schwarz, Ella Runestad, Kaya Hougen and Amy Shedinger.
Decorah returns Cady Peterson, who went 11-4 in singles and 12-1 in doubles two seasons ago and will playing in the No. 1 spot. The No. 2 spot will be filled by Morgan Brauer who went 11-3 in singles and 7-4 in doubles play in 2019.
Looking to fill in the holes left by graduates is a host of talent including seniors Lexi Averhoff, Kendra Bigler, Kaitlyn Golly and Sam Reilly; juniors Mara Holland, Nadia Johnson, Kristi Kjome-Johnson, Paige Lange and sophomore Annalise Skrade.
“We have solid leadership at the top of the line-up with plenty of experience having lettered each year since their freshman year. Experienced, competitive players that have waited for their opportunity to step into the spotlight and solidify line-up soft spots left with graduation,” said Coach Berland. “A large contingent of newcomers are eager to develop into tomorrow’s top players bodes well for the future. How well will our newcomers progress as the season moves along is the underlying question to be asked and one that will not be answered until the last regular season meet of the year.”
A look ahead
Coach Berland sees a big window of opportunity for girls who want to play a part in this year’s success. Decorah will face stiff competition every time it steps on the court this spring. He believes Charles City, Independence, Oelwein, Osage, Waverly-Shell Rock and Waterloo Columbus will all have strong squads.
“Hold on to your hat, this is going to be an interesting ride; hopefully, more smooth than bumpy,” said Berland.