If you feel like you've been reading about Lexi Bauman and Noelle Slezak with the Chaska girls tennis program for a better part of a half-decade, it's because you have.
Bauman is in her sixth year of varsity tennis; Slezak her fifth year. The two top singles players are among seven seniors on the roster.
"Our varsity team is led by our senior captains, Lexi Bauman and Lucy Browning. The leadership ability of the two captains, but also all the seniors, will hopefully play a very impactful role on our team this year. ... I can't wait to see how they finish off their high school careers," second-year Chaska coach Amrik Donkena said of Bauman and Slezak.
Bauman and Slezak have toggled back and forth between first and second singles over the years. No matter who is playing where in the line-up, they bring out the best in each other with competitive practice play.
"They did a really great job last year during the regular season but they had a great run together while playing doubles in the postseason as well. I think they have learned quite a lot from last year and hopefully they are ready to take some big strides during this last year," Donkena said.
While Chaska looks to improve its finish in the Metro West Conference and Section 2AA, overall the word improvement goes beyond the match scores.
"More importantly we hope to improve in terms of our character goals that our varsity sets each year. We hope that the girls not only get better at tennis but we hope they become well rounded people," Donkena said.
Those character goals are what Donkena refers to as the "3 hawks." This year they are positivity, unity and determination.
A record 44 girls were out for tryouts on the first day. Among early-season bonding moments were the Little/Big Sister meet-ups to promote mentorship, togetherness and family; and a team lunch at the lake.
"I think the biggest thing for our team during these early season practices is about how our team is able to practice and live by our character goals. The better we are at being able to control our "3 hawks," the better our practices will go. The better our practices go, the more likely we are to get match results that we desire," the coach said.
Other returning players to watch are Ireland Altenburg and Ellen Adams in singles, and Izzy Lahl in doubles.
Chaska's first match is Wednesday, Aug. 28, at home against Mound-Westonka at 4:15 p.m. Orono also comes to town at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 30.
HOLY FAMILY TENNIS
Playing in the final matches of the Class A State Girls Tennis Tournament in 2017 and 2018, Holy Family Catholic junior Ally Agerland has her sights on something bigger.
So does the Fire team as a whole.
“We are again looking at numbers in the 35 range, which means we will have a chance to be deeper than first anticipated,” Fire head coach TJ Garin said. “Our goal is to win the conference, take the section, and get back to the tradition Holy Family has been reaching for, playing at Reed Sweatt by October.”
Along with Agerland, Morgan Hausback is the other captain. Garin sees those players occupying first singles and first doubles.
“We have some great young talent that will be helping a great deal in making our line-up deeper. Our biggest challenge will be to find out where the chips fall and who can best fill each spot from rookie to experienced,” he said.