Tags: Feature Sports Story
April 11, 2012 | 07:29 AMWALWORTH — For years in the Rock Valley Conference, the Big Foot/Williams Bay boys tennis squad has had one main arch nemesis — McFarland.
The Spartans are the defending conference champs, and the perennial power consistently fields teams of up to 60 players.
It's a different story this season.
Whitewater almost lost its boys tennis team, so McFarland jumped ship to join the Badger Conference near Madison. Whitewater ended up keeping its team, and the Rock Valley added Watertown Luther Prep to fill McFarland's void.
McFarland's departure could be a very good thing for the Chiefs.
"It helps us out a lot," said Big Foot coach Jim Karedes, now in his 14th season. "Winning conference is a definite possibility. The boys will always remember winning conference as a team. Their picture will be in the school forever."
With little lost from a team that finished third in conference last year and key returners across the board, Karedes' aspirations may not be too far off.
Holding court among returners will be sophomore Adam Kolnik, who finished in the top 16 at last year's individual state tennis tournament. Battling it out with Kolnik for the No. 1 singles spot will be sophomore Sebastian Lauterbach, who advanced to state last year at No. 2 singles.
So far, the dynamic duo has been battling for the No. 1 singles spot in challenges, something Karedes encourages among his players. Kolnik and Lauterbach have each won a challenge, and their third challenge could determine who plays the No. 1 singles spot this season.
"We're gonna do challenges with Adam and Seb all four years to determine who will play No. 1 and No. 2," Karedes said. "Last year, Kolnik won both challenges. But Seb won last Monday, and Adam won Tuesday, 7-5, 7-5. It was really tight. I'm toying with the thought of putting them at No. 1 doubles in postseason. They're good enough to finish podium in double."
Karedes said Kolnik hit a ton in the offseason, grew about 4 inches and built more muscle. Karedes said Lauterbach also worked hard in the offseason.
"They are spitting images of how hard they worked and how much they dedicated to their games," Karedes said.
Other key returners in singles action will be junior Gerald Leslie, who advanced to sectionals at No. 4 singles last season. Also, senior Ben Gauger moves over from doubles to join the singles fray. Sophomore Neil Stilin, a Williams Bay student who Karedes said will be "big for us," could challenge Leslie and Gauger for the final two singles spots.
Other returners will play doubles include Lucas Patten and D'Jalen Evans. Karedes also is excited about a new doubles team, Jacob Waro and Matt Watters, two sophomores playing tennis for the first time.
"Jacob and Matt will have a very nice postseason by the time they are seniors," Karedes said. "Both played baseball last year. They would fit in nicely at No. 3 doubles."
Freshman Nick Klesmith will also contend in doubles.
"Nick is a super kid," Karedes said. "He understands the game but lacks experience. But he has a lot of good strokes."
With only one match under their belts, the Chiefs are still figuring things out.
"We're still developing the lineup," Karedes said. "Adam, Seb, Ben and Gerald will be singles, but we have to find six guys to play solid doubles. My No. 1 doubles team will be equally as talented as the No. 3 doubles. Hopefully one will emerge as the top team."
Last Thursday, the Chiefs fell at home to Westosha Central, 4-3. Karedes said a lot of kids went on vacation the week leading up to the match.
"I was frustrated by our first week of practice," Karedes said. "We only have five guys at practice because many were on vacation for spring break. I understand, but it was just unfortunate everyone was gone at the same time."
Karedes is excited about the team's talent level, and he wants to win team conference.
"Our top side is tops in the conference," he said. "Our bottom side will be average. It will be a question of who develops most rapidly."
Karedes said his singles and doubles teams will have to medal (top three) at conference in order for the Chiefs to win the conference crown.
Big Foot continues nonconference action Thursday at Wilmot. Karedes said the squad doesn't have a busy April.
"By pushing matches back into May, it allows us more opportunity for better stroke production. They don't like it now because it's practice, practice, practice. But in May, the kids will love playing a lot of matches."
Overall, Karedes said practice will make perfect.
"We need to build stroke production by using repetition," he said. "The kids need to hit forehand after forehand after forehand. They need that repetition so it becomes a natural, fluent motion."