If experience leads to success, coach Brandon Walker could see some good things from this year’s boys tennis team.
There were no seniors on the 2016 squad, so Walker has nearly his entire roster returning.
Leading the way for the Hornet boys is senior Kaden Phillips, a first team, all-league selection last fall when he came within one match victory of qualifying for the Class 2A state tournament.
Some familiar names returning to the roster, those with varsity experience, include senior Riley Carter; juniors Wyatt Robertson, Jacob Lange and Dalton Taylor; and sophomore Tanner Jewell.
A good crop of returnees was on hand to greet veteran coach Dameon Marlow when Hornet distance runners gathered for a new season.
On the girls side of the things, lost to graduation was Courtney Gelmini, last year’s SPSL 2A Athlete of the Year. But there are plenty of familiar names filling out the varsity roster, including top returnees Camryn Berryhill and Hannah Swettenam, both seniors. Also back from the varsity list are seniors Natalie Franco and Claire Lowe and sophomore Jessica Taylor.
A season ago, the Hornet girls won a district title and placed in the Top 10 during the Class 2A state meet.
On the boys side, junior Joel Slominski is the top returning runner for White River. Last season, he qualified for the state meet. Also with varsity experience are sophomores Noah Ashley and Grant Swettenam.
Plenty of returning talent will take the floor for Lina Randall, the reigning SPSL 2A Volleyball Coach of the Year.
The impressive roster begins with a trio of seniors – Hope Baldyga, Megan Vandegrift and Keegan Strobeck – all coming off seasons in which they picked up first team, all-league honors. Also back are senior Hanna Nelson and junior Noelle Mills, both second team selections a year ago.
There’s an asterisk by Mills’ name, however, as she continues to rehabilitate a broken leg suffered during the spring fastpitch season.
With a week remaining before opening night, Randall was still determining a varsity lineup. Others in the running are seniors Emma Cash and Hannah Alfano; sophomores Kaitlyn Nelson and Morgan Budinich; and freshmen Megan Brucker, Sarah Elmore, Lacee Lisherness and Tori Schmidtke.
Last year’s crew went undefeated through the regular season, won a district championship and took fourth-place honors at the 2A state tournament.
The biggest loss was Mountain Division MVP Kendall Bird, who graduated in June and is now playing basketball at the University of San Diego.
Both talent and experience dot the Hornet roster, making life a bit easier for coach Terry Vallala.
At the top of the varsity lineup is Cooper Franklin, a senior who was the Mountain Division’s Player of the Year last season. He’s a three-time letterman and has landed first team, all-league honors all three years.
Also on the card is junior Joe Flanigan, a first team, all-league player in 2016. Adding to the mix are varsity returnees like juniors Brock Keller and Drew Thompson.
Other returnees, Vallala said, include Erik Schultz, Dane Stoeck, Justin Smith, Tanner Penrose, Mavrik Mills, Blake Coogan and Adam Wakefield. Players new to the team are junior Clay Cashman and senior Trevor Budinich.
Franklin, Flanigan and Keller qualified for the 2A state tournament a season ago. Franklin had the best individual performance, surviving the first-round cut and finishing at 163, good for 26th place in the field.
Good things should again be in store for the White River girls, who boast a deep and talented lineup for coach Anna Rose.
At the top of the list is senior Sofia Lavinder, last year’s Mountain Division Player of the Year. Fellow seniors include Georgia Lavinder, Taylee Goethals, Megan Cash and Taylor Spooner; the first three were first team, all-league selections a year ago and Spooner was a second team selection. Also back in the varsity fold are Emma McGregor, who was a first team performer last season as a freshman, and junior Alex Frederick, who advanced a year ago to the state qualifying tournament.
Last year, the girls team placed eigth in the last Class 2A state tournament.
The big news on the Hornet front might be the introduction of a new coach, but a quality group of returning players are expected to write the real story.
Taking the White River reins is Joe Birklid, a Hornet alum with a background in coaching club soccer.
He has greeted a team spearheaded by senior Annabelle Hall, last year’s Mountain Division MVP. Also returning to the field are five first team, all-league performers: seniors Haylee Gunter, Ariel Saylor and Shelby Stoeck; junior Chloe Narolski; and sophomore Emma Robbins.
Seniors Zoe Grimm and Ally Glebe also return, following seasons in which they were second team all-leaguers, along with senior goalkeeper Autumn Nation, an honorable mention selection last year.
Last year’s Hornet squad posted an impressive mark of 16-2-2 and advanced to the Class 2A state tournament.