by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKEFIELD — Wakefield’s girls tennis team is hitting the courts after a 9-7 2012 season and is looking forward to a new year.
Despite losing five seniors, including their No. 2, 3 and 4 singles players, the Wolverines team returns a talented core of athletes.
“This year’s squad is a little inexperienced with only one senior with any significant experience, but they should hold their own,” said Wakefield coach Ken Stewart.
“We (still) have talent and should be very competitive,” he said. “We need to shore up our depth and find almost all new doubles combinations but I’m looking forward to a fun and successful season.”
The Wolverines finished fourth in the Cap 8 Conference last season behind Broughton, Sanderson and Millbrook. They have played in eight of the last nine state playoffs.
“The Cap 8 Conference will again be the premier tennis conference — and Broughton again will be the team to beat,” Stewart said.
A young Sanderson team, which made the state tournament last season, will also be a threat.
“Millbrook also returns their top three players and Enloe and Leesville Road will both be improved,” Stewart said. “There won’t be a lot of margin of error for us but I’m confident we will more than hold our own.”
Sophomore Susanne Boyden returns as one of Wakefield’s top players. She finished third in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship, losing in the quarterfinals to former state champion, Chloe Willets of R.J. Reynolds High School.
Boyden’s only losses in the regular season were to Broughton’s Maggie Kane, who eventually won the 4A state title.
“Susanne is highly competitive, improved and there will be more great tennis from her this season,” Stewart said.
Savannah Ivey, a senior, is back at No. 5 singles.
“She shows great leadership and doubles expertise and will be a mainstay in the lineup,” Stewart said.
Also team captain, Ivey said she believes her team will have a solid year.
“I think we will win more matches,” Ivey said. “If we all work together as a team, I think we will do well in the conference.”
Juniors Lauren Sheppard and Lauren Hardwick also return.
Sheppard, who plays No. 6 singles, was last year’s most improved player, Stewart said.
“She made a big push at the end of last year and looks to be improved in all facets this year,” he added.
Hardwick played little last year because of injury but was the Wolverines No. 1 singles player two seasons ago as a freshman.
“She has looked great and pain-free in practice,” Stewart said. “She still has a ways to go physically but she’s a big talent, who will contribute immediately when she returns to the lineup.”
Caroline Stallings, a sophomore, has also improved, Stewart said. “She has gotten stronger from last year and will step in and contribute,” he said. “She has been a very consistent performer, so far.”
Stewart will also be relying on freshman Alexander McNamara and Lilah Ivey.
“Alexandra looks to step in at No. 2,” he said.
“Both players hit the ball extremely well and will need to contribute right away,” he added.