The Verona girls tennis team figures to have success similar to last season, with more starters returning than lost to graduation.
The Wildcats finished fourth in the Big 8 Conference last year behind Madison West, Madison Memorial and Middleton. Coach Mark Happel expects the top three to stay the same, and the Wildcats to challenge each top contender.
“I think we’ll be in the top four again,” said Happel, who is entering his 16th year at the helm. “Our conference might be the best in the state. The three teams ahead of us last year were all ranked in the top 10 in the state. It’s a really talented conference.”
Verona returns seven letterwinners, including its top four singles players and No. 1 doubles team of seniors Sydney Breitbach and Kasie Keyes.
Meredith Conley, Mary Saley and Meghan Samz are experienced varsity singles players, and sophomores Sam Breitbach and Elsa Queoff weren’t afraid of the spotlight last year as freshmen.
Finding replacements for the four graduated players on the Nos. 2 and 3 doubles teams will be the key to team success, according to Happel.
“We should be really strong at the top of our lineup, but we need to have some girls step up,” he said. “We’ll be young and inexperienced at the bottom of our lineup, and those points count just the same at the top.”
Conley is a three-time state qualifier at No. 1 singles. She’s looking to go 4-for-4 in state appearances, but is also looking forward to taking on more of a leadership role this season.
“It’s exciting because I get to be a captain this year,” Conley said. “I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far in my high school career, but I’m also focused on helping the freshmen have fun and experience what I have.”
Conley lost in the first round at state as a freshman and sophomore. She earned a seed and broke through to the second round last season, but came up short of the round of 16.
“I want to be seeded a little higher,” Conley said, “and try to reach the round of 16 and win more matches at state.”
Verona started practice Tuesday, Aug. 13, and begin the regular season Aug. 19 at the La Crosse Central Invitational. The Wildcats will host Janesville Parker on Aug. 20 to kick off Big 8 play.