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The Central girls tennis team has gone 27-1 in regular season dual play with a pair of district titles in the two years since Annette Slattery has returned to the squad as head coach.
With the loss of just three top-six players -- including the state-qualifying doubles team of Dani Gross and Monica Toole -- the Tigers should have the depth and talent to make a run at a third straight district crown when they kick off the regular season at home Tuesday against Farmington.
"I think the commitment is there, and when you've got a good group it kind of builds on itself from year to year," Slattery said.
Slattery coached the Tigers from 1979 to 1999 before taking four seasons off. The Tigers have sent three doubles teams to the state tournament the past two seasons, and return state qualifiers Sarah Ford and Lindsey Pingel off last year's squad.
Ford and Pingel, both juniors, won the doubles district title over teammates Gross and Toole last season and also won a match at the state tournament before falling in the consolation quarterfinals.
"They worked on doubles all summer, got lessons in St. Louis in doubles specifically," Slattery said. "I'd say they're playing at another level higher than they were last year. Their level of shot-making has matured."
Kristen Ford and Claire Segar, both seniors, saw some varsity action last year. Sophomore newcomer Christen Edmonds is likely to see singles varsity action, with several others vying for spots.
Slattery said there still is plenty of competition for spots among the top eight.
"Everyone's worked so hard, I don't think we've lost anything in those positions skill-wise, so obviously my expectations are as high as ever," Slattery said.
The competition level within the district could be as high as ever as well this season. Parkway South enters Class 2 District 1, taking the spot of Farmington. Parkway South eliminated Central in the sectional playoffs last season.
"I'm looking forward to the increased competition," Slattery said.
Brummel guides Indians
The Jackson tennis program is under new leadership.
David Brummel will coach the Indians this season, after Linda Adams guided Jackson over the last decade. Brummel has previously served as soccer assistant under Zack Walton at Jackson. Adams will stay on as an assistant.
"She's kind of helping me out, so it's kind of a switch of roles," Brummel said. "She's a good resource to have."
Jackson has several varsity players back from last year, including seniors Sarah Detring and Alynda Lane, and junior Ellen Beil. The Indians will have seven sophomores on their roster, led by returning varsity players Erinne Haff and Maura Neader.
Brummel said he expects his two seniors to provide leadership for his squad, and thinks his young contingent will continue to grow.
"A few of them will probably be in the top six. What better way is there to get them experience?" Brummel said.
The Indians will have a busy opening week with three matches. Jackson has road matches Monday and Tuesday, followed by a home match Thursday against Farmington.
"I'm just excited to get it going," Brummel said.
tennis capsules 8/20
Coach: Annette Slattery
* Last year: 18-2; district champions; lost in sectionals
* Returning starters: Sarah Ford, junior; Lindsey Pingel, junior; Kristen Ford, senior; Claire Segar, seniorr.
* Other top returning players: Elizabeth Knight, junior; Sami Gross, sophomore; Paige Kinder, senior; Lauren Tobin, senior; Karrie Moll, senior; Emily Hiett, senior; Carsen Bahn, senior; Brooke Morris, sophomore; Kristi Lazarova, sophomore.
* Key newcomers: Christen Edmonds, sophomore; Sarah Uptmor, sophomore; Kaley Chism, freshman; Allie Billmeyer, freshman; Kelsey Teichman, freshman
* Coach's outlook: "Although we lost three seniors -- our No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 singles -- I think we should be fairly strong again this year. The girls have all been working hard, taking lessons, playing tournaments, conditioning and practicing with each other."
Coach: David Brummel
* Last year: 7-7
* Returning starters: Sarah Detring, senior; Alynda Lane, senior; Ellen Beil, senior.
* Other top returning players: Erinne Haff, sophomore; Maura Neader, sophomore
* Coach's outlook: "A well-balanced team that works hard and will bring various skills and contributions to the courts this season."