Youthful Central girls tennis team looks to take big strides forward

Lander Barbour Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Central’s girls tennis team took its share of lumps last year, but this season could be a completely different story.

With all but one player back from last year’s team and the addition of a couple of talented freshmen, the Falcons have good reasons to be upbeat.

“We only had one senior last year that we lost,” Central coach Matt Smith said. “It forced a lot of the younger girls to play up a seed or two, which was tough for our record but they gained a lot of valuable experience. I can see they’re coming back a lot stronger this year.”

The Falcons, who went 3-12 last season, return five of their top six singles players from last year’s team. Junior Lander Barbour played at No. 1 singles last year.

She said it was difficult playing at the top spot, but she believes it helped her.

Madison Smith Rich Cooley/Daily

“It was tough,” Barbour said. “It was challenging, but I think it definitely helped me playing against a lot of older people. So I think it definitely helped. It was a little tough emotion-wise, but it was still pretty good.”

Matt Smith said that Central’s top four this season will likely consist of Barbour, sophomores Madison Smith and Mackenzie Ryman and freshman Michelle Kim, with the order still to be decided in challenge matches.

Madison Smith played at No. 2 singles last year, and has been working on her game in the offseason. She said she didn’t play basketball this winter so she could focus on tennis, and take lessons at Stonebrook Club in Winchester.

Madison Smith said she feels more confident and experienced this season.

“Last year was a really good learning experience,” she said. “I know what to expect now, and I’ve worked hard throughout the year. So hopefully I’ll do better.”

Michelle Kim Rich Cooley/Daily

Ryman played at No. 3 singles last year. She said that the team is older and wiser on the court this season.

“We have the same group of girls and we’re also more experienced,” Ryman said. “We know what group of girls were dealing with when we go to different schools. So that will help us learn what to use and what skills not to use.”

Kim said she has been playing tennis since a very young age, and she also plays at Stonebook Club. She said she takes lessons from Stonebrook Club Head Pro John Dokken.

Since it’s her first year at the varsity level, Kim said she isn’t sure what to expect but she just wants to have fun with it.

“I don’t really care about winning or losing, I just want to improve my game and get more experience,” Kim said.

Mackenzie Ryman Rich Cooley/Daily

Juniors Anna Truban and Krissica Tusing played at No. 4 and 6 singles, respectively, last year.

Matt Smith said Sarah Grace Schechtel, one of only two seniors on the squad, is back with the team after not playing last season.

Central, which has seven matches in the first two weeks of the season, has a bright future ahead. Matt Smith said his main goal for the team is just to keep improving.

“I want to help them improve technically,” he said. “I want them to enjoy it and get better and then come back out next year.”