Stoughton boys tennis letterwinners

The Stoughton Area High School boys tennis returning letterwinners, from left: junior Collin Williamson, senior Stephen Krcma, senior Steven Benoy, senior Greg Moser and junior Hayden Schreier.

Stoughton Area High School head boys tennis coach Amy Kahl tries to put players who are new to the sport in singles competitions.

This year, that’s not likely to happen. She expects her singles players to lead the team with their experience, while the doubles tandems learn on the fly.

“The doubles will have that feeling of rebuilding, but my singles are all kids who play year-round and have played tournaments and have experience,” she said.

Junior Hayden Schreier advanced to the sectional finals in 2019 as a freshman, and senior Steven Benoy is expected to lead the team this year as the No. 1 singles player. Kahl also believes strongly in her two sophomore singles players — Max Dugan and Connor Lyons — who have continued to play over the last few years despite not having a high school season.

Kahl said she knows all of the singles players very well thanks to working with them in the past.

One of the team’s struggles will be teaching the finer points of the game to those new to the sport due to a shortage of practice time.

“The season for boys is always quick, but this year, it’s going to literally be a season of matches, and it’s going to be tough to work on developing new skills during the season,” Kahl said.

Typically, the third-year coach tries to place new players in singles matches because they are forced to play and hit more balls in every match. But this year, she is trying the newer players in doubles instead.

The first week of practice, which started Monday, will feature plenty of doubles drills.

“We will be spending that first week really working on doubles strategy and just doubles knowledge for ball placement and where to stand and positioning, that will really be the learning curve,” she said.

Like most coaches in most sports, there is an element of unknowns for the team.

“It’s been two years, basically, since I’ve been with this group, and we’ve had a lot of turnover in that time,” Kahl said.

Another worry for the coach is a small team of only 10 kids. That’s exactly how many players compete in a typical WIAA tennis match, so she said some events could be a challenge for the program to no fault of the team.

“I know here and there, being that the season is starting later and it really conflicts with the end of the school year, I know there’s certain times that I am going to have kids missing, so this is going to be a tough year.”

On the other hand, Kahl said she is excited to work with the group, adding that the unknowns could make for some exciting finishes.

After two years of no conference play, Kahl believes the conference is hard to rate. She hopes her team takes advantage of that as motivation.

“I honestly feel like the conference is wide open, which is a great feeling. And I think having this alternate girl’s season showed that even though we didn’t have conference titles for girls, you know, it was anybody’s game. And I really believe that this year it’s going to be wide open.”

The team opens the season with a match at Milton on Friday, May 7 before hosting an eight-team invitational Saturday, May 8.