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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : sports : local September 25, 2016

3/9/2013 2:49:00 PM
Upperclassmen leading rookie team with goal of state playoffs
A Mingus Union High School tennis player eyes the ball for the upcoming shot.VVN/Jon Pelletier
A Mingus Union High School tennis player eyes the ball for the upcoming shot.

VVN/Jon Pelletier

Travis Guy
Sports Reporter

Not everyone that plays a sport is athletically gifted. Some students have the natural ability to excel at any given competition, while others are forced to work at their given sport to excel.

When coaches have athletically gifted students on the roster that can make their job a bit easier as the learning curve is reduced. That is what Marauders new tennis head coach Tim Kessel is dealing with this season, with the help of a familiar face.

"The nice thing is that I convinced coach [Jeff] Knight, last year's varsity coach, to come back and help out as an assistant," Kessel said. "Which really helps a lot because he's really good with the strokes and really good with the younger kids."

Along with Knight, Kessel has three upperclassmen to help teach an otherwise all-freshmen team the basics of tennis and help get the squad ready for competition.

"What we have right now is, we have three experienced players and then the rest of the team, varsity and JV, is all freshmen," Kessel said. "So we only have three upperclassmen and the rest are freshmen. We really are rebuilding completely. The great thing is we have a really solid core of the older kids, that's [juniors] Talon Walz, Tanner Caron and then [senior] Gilbert [Quidera]."

The upperclassmen know the situation the team is in after losing four seniors who "were all tough guys," according to Walz, and helped the Marauders make it to the state semi-finals before being eliminated, and the juniors and senior welcome the opportunity to help the freshmen grow as teammates and tennis players.

"We're just working to be the best role models for them," Walz said. "Working as hard as we can and show them a good example so they can hopefully stick with it and be really good by the time they're upperclassmen."

Quidera is the lone senior on the team, and after splitting time between junior varsity [JV] and varsity during 2012, he is ready to step up to full-time varsity at the No. 3 court.

"My goal is to do better than I did last year," the senior said. "Last year I was half JV, half varsity and this year I'm No. 3 and I'm just hoping to have a great season. Maybe do something good in state ... [my goal] for the team, just make it as far as we can without regrets."

Walz, who will be playing at the No. 1 court this season, finished the regular season with a lone defeat has a lofty goal he will attempt to achieve this spring.

"I'm trying to go undefeated for singles in number one, that would be really cool," Walz said. "Last year I only had one loss at number two, so I'm trying to go undefeated."

With his team leaders working toward the goals they set, Kessel has seen how their motivation encourages the new teammates to work hard and strive to become the best tennis players they can.

"They don't get lazy, they have fun, I think the younger player look at those guys and see they're always working hard when they're inside the lines," Kessel remarked about the upperclassmen. "Expectations are high and they don't want to let those upper kids down and the top athletes are working very hard. They are leading by example."

As Walz, Quidera and Caron lead the team and help the freshmen grow, the talent gap between the rookie players and the experienced narrows, which is what Kessel is aiming for so the team can stay competitive with the goal of making it to the team state playoff again.

"Our goal is to be competitive, win some matches," Kessel said. "Our goal, obviously, is to make it to team state, which is the top-16 teams [in the division]. And of course we want to place our top kids also at the individual state as well. We want to grow as team, we want to show class and character and we want to develop from the bottom up."

ICT - Taylor Waste

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