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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lady Owls may rebuild, but goals remain the same

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Senior Stephanie Markes, last year's NCMC champion at No. 5 singles, begins her third season as a starter for the Lady Owls.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
As she often has during her 22 years as head coach of the Marshall girls' tennis team, Susan Carney again faces the challenge of rebuilding following the loss of a strong senior class.

That happened last in 2008, when replacements had to be found for the bulk of an NCMC and district championship club led by all-staters Courtney Henley and Amy Durham. Rising to the occasion were the likes of Haley Evans, Amy Van, Skylar Simpson and Allea Summers -- who claimed back-to-back conference crowns and extended the Lady Owls' streak of playoff appearances to a state-record 25 years.

Those four are gone after pacing Marshall to an 18-2 dual record, including 5-0 in the NCMC, setting a new school standard with 14 shutout victories.

"They're tough to replace," Carney admitted. "They worked hard to get where they were."

The task now, she said, is "working on finding out who's supposed to be where" in sorting through the 11 returning lettermen, five junior varsity holdovers and two newcomers to establish a line-up.

However, some things never change, especially Carney's expectations.

"We always have our goals," she said, which are consistently to win the conference and district tournaments. "I expect everybody's best."

Two singles starters are back: sophomore Molly Evans after posting a 19-2 mark at No. 6 during her rookie campaign and senior Stephanie Markes, 19-3 at No. 5.

"Those girls know what it's all about," Carney said. "They have to pick it up and lead us."

Following the team's pre-season ladder tournament and challenges, the other singles starters appear to be freshman Taylor Crawford and juniors Payton Beeler, Amanda Harrelson and Idalia Aguilar -- the last three members of NCMC medal-winning doubles combos last year.

The top candidates for doubles spots are junior Callee Stephens; seniors Sam Huston, Kaylie Davenport and Ellen Woolsey; junior Savannah Simpson and sophomore Nichole Gann -- with senior Cortney Morrison, junior Kayla Elson and sophomore Mary Elfrink looking for an opportunity to crack into the top 12.

"We do have a lot of new faces, and new people who have not played tennis before," Carney said. However, during practice, the Lady Owls "play a lot. Once they have the strokes down, we have to get into position for actual play.

"We want to make sure they're all right," she explained. "They're picking up so much."

So far, Carney is "pleased with their development," and the well-attended junior tennis program during the summer is a major factor in this.

"If they play at all, it helps them," Carney said. "the more they hit, the more consistent they are."

Will Marshall have enough firepower to again contend for the conference title and keep the playoff string intact? That will only be answered over time, but Carney is optimistic: "I think we'll have a good year.

"All I expect is their best," she emphasized, "and whatever that makes us be at the end is what it is."

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