The Palmyra girls tennis team hopes to claim its third straight district championship but will rely on several new faces to get there.
The Palmyra girls tennis team rose to new heights with back-to-back district championships the past two seasons.
New faces will have to step up for that trend to continue.
The Lady Panthers graduated nine players from last year's roster, leaving four varsity spots up for grabs.
Seniors Kendra Maples and Amy Bryan are the lone returning starters.
“Of course there are high hopes going into the season, but you never really know until you start playing,” said coach Jessica Gottman, who enters her 14th season. “The girls in our top six are confident. They're not shying away from their spots. I think they'll do well.”
The Lady Panthers fell one win short of reaching state as a team last year with a sectional loss to Incarnate Word.
Kendra Maples competed in doubles at the Class 1 state championships the past two years with former teammate Emmy Griesbaum. The tandem finished eighth both times.
Maples is back as Palmyra's top-ranked player.
“Kendra is a great player whose talent you don't get that often,” Gottman said. “She keeps her head in the game. She doesn't get mad, she doesn't get irritated.”
Maples and Bryan are expected to play as doubles partners this year.
Bryan is the No. 2 player in the Lady Panthers lineup.
“Amy is a very strong player with great form,” Gottman said.
Junior Reagan Lehenbauer is playing at the varsity level for the first time this season as the third-ranked player.
“Reagan is very consistent,” Gottman said. “She's very fast. If the opponent makes her run, that's not an issue. The 3 spot is hard, but I think she will do pretty well.”
Chloe Dent makes her varsity debut this year as a senior at No. 4.
“Chloe has very good form and just has to work on consistency,” Gottman said.
A pair of freshmen round out the Lady Panthers' starting lineup.
McKenna Abbott and Jansen Juette are plugged into the No. 5 and No. 6 spots, respectively.
“Those two just kept moving up in challenge matches until they lost and they ended up in the varsity lineup,” Gottman said. “It was very impressive to see them get into the top six.”
There are 16 total players in the Palmyra program this fall.
That number is fewer than a year ago, but Gottman believes there is plenty of talent in the pipeline.
“We've got at least seven people who have never played tennis before in their life, so it's a learning period for everybody right now,” she said.
Palmyra earns home shutout over Hannibal
Palmyra improved to 2-1 on the season Thursday with a 9-0 home victory over Hannibal.
Maples defeated Sascha Pauly 8-1 at No. 1 singles; Bryan beat Blair Burton 8-0 at No. 2; Lehenbauer topped Elizabeth Stilley 8-2 at No. 3; Dent was an 8-1 victor over Jaspreet Kandola at No. 4; and Juette defeated Kaylee Dissel at No. 6.
Maples and Bryan defeated Pauly and Burton 8-1 in the top doubles match. Lehenbauer and Juette won 8-1 over Stilley and Brummell in No. 2 doubles, while Dent and Abbott beat Kandola and Dissel in the No. 3 matchup.