NU faces challenge |

NU faces challenge

Eileen JoyceFreshman Kate Wolfe returns a shot Tuesday against McClatchy at Nevada Union. Wolfe is part of the young squad that will test its mettle in the Metro this year.
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Like other sports programs at Nevada Union, the girls tennis team has step into the unchartered territory of a new conference.

While the new Metro Conference might not match the old Capital Athletic League tennis programs of the past, top to bottom, it took only one match in the new league for the young Miners team to learn there will be plenty of challenges ahead.

NU was blanked in team competition Tuesday by a McClatchy team with 11 out of 12 starters back from the lineup that won the Metro League title last year.

“It will be a learning curve for us,” NU coach Mike Blake said. “They beat Yuba City in their first match, and Yuba City has always been a marker because we’ve always been close with them. But McClatchy obviously has a good team.”

Nevada Union’s tennis program is never wanting for numbers. Blake intends to carry 18 instead of 16 players on this year’s varsity squad, in part because the lineup has more parity than the program has seen in years.

“I told the girls the other day, from what I can see is that 1-12, they are pretty close to being equal players,” Blake said. “We don’t have that dominant player like we have in the past, but we do have consistency down the line. Hopefully, the depth will pay off.”

The Miners, who won their preseason match against Del Oro earlier this year, are young as well. Tuesday’s starting lineup featured sophomore Jessica Miller at No. 1 singles, freshman Kate Wolfe at No. 2 singles, junior Laura Olmstead at No. 3 singles and sophomore Heather Herman at No. 4. Blake said senior Lilah Sutphen, who would have played at No. 2 singles, is currently out with a wrist injury.

Many of the girls on this year’s team saw varsity playing time at one time or another in doubles in 2001, with Olmstead being the player with the most varsity playing time at singles last year.

“We’re young not only in years, but the number of years the girls have been playing tennis,” Blake said. “Jessica, for example, has really only been playing a couple of years, and that is a lot to overcome when you are playing girls who have played a lot and have gone to camps.”

The inexperience of the squad means that Blake spends more time on technique and talks about strategy than in the past, focusing on utilizing what each particular player does best on the tennis court.

“To win, we’ll have to beat teams with our brains,” Blake said. “That is the nice thing about tennis, that a smarter player can often prevail.”

NU’s team had a number of challenges during the preseason, with the number of challenges tapering off as the season rolls on.

“I think against McClatchy in the second round, we should do better,” Blake said.

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