ELLSWORTH — First-year head girls’ tennis coach Brad Baker is preaching consistency this fall season. Hired late in the summer, he’s had a limited amount of time to work with the incoming group but so far, he likes what he sees.
Baker has experience coaching high school baseball and was part of the Ellsworth boys’ tennis program as an assistant in the 1990s. He also played tennis in high school. His plan is to use that experience to continue to build the Ellsworth girls’ tennis program into a regularly competitive group.
One way to do that is to get younger players excited about the sport — something that was already on track last fall when the program saw participation numbers jump from 12 to 21 athletes.
Keeping the participation numbers relatively flat was viewed as a goal since Ellsworth lost six varsity players this year due to graduation. One of which, Mattie Beck, was the only Panther to advance past the first round of play in the Middle Border Conference tournament last fall.
This year features a high number of freshmen and a strong senior group, however, with six seniors likely in the varsity lineup. Finding the right balance with underclassmen and those seniors is a work in progress but Baker said he has strong leadership to help him along these first few weeks.
“Our captains this year, Kacie Duvall and Lydia Cole, are doing a lot of good things,” he said. “They had captain’s practice this summer and I think that helped the team stay in form.”
With a similar participation rate this fall, it appears the foundation has been set. The next step is to crank up the consistency.
“We’re early in, but right now it’s just a matter of seeing who is fundamentally sound and just kind of go from there,” Baker said. “Hopefully with a little success, we can keep that going.”
Ellsworth will play a largely conference-only schedule this fall. Below is a look at the upcoming schedule. All matches are subject to be postponed or canceled.
9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 21, at Osceola (quad)
4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, at New Richmond
4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, vs. Barron
4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, vs. Amery
4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Bloomer
9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Baldwin-Woodville (quad)
4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, at Altoona
4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, vs. Baldwin-Woodville
4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at Mondovi
10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Baldwin-Woodville (quad)
4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at Osceola
4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, vs. Unity