The Palmyra girls tennis team has come a long way since Jessica Gottman took the reins 13 years ago. According to the veteran coach, the 2017 Lady Panthers have the potential to be one of the best in program history.

“All of these girls have a great work ethic,” Gottman stated. “They don’t give in when they are tired and they have a lot of competitiveness in them which makes them strive to get better.

“I feel like this team is just as strong as some of the best teams we have had here.”

The Lady Panthers lost their No. 1 and No. 4 players from last season’s district championship team, but state finalists Kendra Maples and Emmy Griesbaum return.

Maples and Griesbaum paired up as the Lady Panthers top doubles team last season. Maples, who was pencilled in as the Lady Panthers No. 2 player last season, will be the No. 1 player this season.

“Kendra played a lot in the Quincy leagues over the summer and she won singles and doubles there and won it to the finals of the mixed doubles,” Gottman said. “She has put in a lot of work and she is just a very strong and competitive player for us.”

Griesbaum was the Lady Panthers No. 3 player last year. Her coach noted the senior is good about keeping her emotions ­— good and bad — in check.

“You never can tell if she is mad or not, she doesn’t show any emotion,” the Lady Panthers coach said. “Like Kendra she is a very strong player who is quick to the ball and hits it well.”

The two will once again make up the Panthers top tandem this season.

At No. 3 singles for Palmyra will be Lauryn Wear. The senior makes the jump up from the No. 6 spot last season.

“She makes very good placements on her shots and puts a lot of topspin on the ball,” Gottman said.

Sophomore Raegan Barnett will be slotted in the No. 4 singles position. The Lady Panthers coach mentioned Barnett is one of the defenders on the team.

“I think her biggest strength is you can’t hit a ball that she can’t return,” the coach said. “She is just so quick and in shape. She is starting to do a better job of placing the ball as well.”

Amy Bryan is another sophomore and will be playing at the No. 5 singles position. Gottman says Bryan’s mere presence on the court plays to her advantage.

Bryan will pair up with Barnett as the Lady Panthers No. 2 doubles team.

“She is an intimidating player,” the coach said of Bryan. “She just looks like a strong hard tennis player and she does just that, she hits the ball hard. And she has some nice strokes and puts a lot of topspin on the ball. I think a lot of people get a little bit nervous when they see her.”

Sami Bross rounds out the top six for the Lady Panthers. Gottman mentioned the senior is another player who is getting better at placing the ball and “has a really good spin serve.”

Bross and Wear will be the No. 3 doubles team this year.

The veteran coach also mentioned Keller Shemwell and Robby Myers are two players who could battle for a top 6 spot by season’s end.

“Keller challenged Sammy and played her tough to a 8-5 loss so she is getting close,” the Lady Panthers coach noted. “And Robby is back for her senior year after taking last year off. She has worked really hard to get back to the No. 8 spot.”

Gottman mentioned if the team can make opponents work on the other side of the net, then they can have another successful season.

“The big thing is we are just going to have to place the ball and make the other team run,” she said. “If you want to win you can’t just return the ball right at them you have to be able to make them move. And I think all of our girls are doing a better job at placing their shots.”

The Lady Panthers open their season Aug. 21 when they play host to Quincy Notre Dame.