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Badger netters fully loaded

Senior Dean Schwefel returns to the Badgers this year. (click for larger version)
April 13, 2011 | 08:45 AM
At last year's Southern Lakes boys tennis meet, Badger missed out on the conference title by one measly point to Waterford.

Coach Marty Badt and his players haven't forgotten about that day. With plenty of experience back, including three state qualifiers, Badt's bunch is ready for big things this season.

"The conference meet left a bitter taste in our mouths last year," said Badt, now in his seventh season. "We have a chip on our shoulder this year to make sure it doesn't come down to one point. This is one of the deeper, stronger teams I've had in a long time."

Badger took second in the SLC a year ago, and they were fifth at sectionals. This year, the boys welcome back three conference champions, including senior Dean Schwefel at No. 1 singles, junior Dmitri Chironis at No. 2 singles and Reid Solheim and Matt Heinz at No. 1 doubles. Schwefel, Heinz and Solheim all advanced to the state meet last spring. Badt said his top guys have improved from last year.

"The guys played a lot in the offseason," Badt said. "Also, they played other sports and came into the season in good shape. We had a really good offseason. Also, with our depth, there is a lot of competitiveness and guys are pushing each other."

Badger returns senior Kolin Harrigan and junior Mack Ruby. Badt is excited about several key newcomers, including senior Colin Gardner, juniors Tom O'Brien and Philipp Kleiner and sophomore Colin Gordon, who played on Racine St. Catherine's last year. Badt said Kleiner, a German foreign exchange student, should play No. 2 doubles with Harrigan. Badt said Ruby will play at either singles or doubles. Gardner should play singles, and Gordon will be in the doubles mix.

Badt is excited about his squad, and he said his guys must simply take care of business on the court.

"We have a lot of experience, leadership, athleticism and the kids hit the ball pretty well," Badt said. "We need to just stay focused and be mentally strong. If our guys are warming up and feel like they should kill their opponent, they need to do what they need to do to kill them. We can't take it for granted and before you know it, you're in a tight match. We can't be cocky or conceited, we just need to do what needs to be done."

Despite a wealth of experience, Badt said there is definitely room for improvement.

"Strategy will be key, especially for some of the newer kids," he said. "They haven't played that much. The younger kids need to watch the older kids and see what it takes to be successful."

For the most part, though, Badt believes the sky is the limit for his squad when it comes to postseason goals.

"Winning the SLC as a team is a big goal," Badt said. "Also, we'd like to have as many SLC champs as we can. We want to finish in the top two or three at sectionals if we don't win it. We have a chance to compete with Tremper this year at sectionals."

Badt would also like to advance as many kids to state as possible. He believes Schwefel, Chironis and the teams of Solheim and Heinz and Harrigan and Kleiner all have a good shot at making state.

Badt believes Union Grove will be Badger's toughest competition, and he is raring to show the conference what his team is made of.

"We'd like to think we can handle Union Grove," he said. "We're much stronger than last year. The guys all bond well. I'm most looking forward to watching the progression of our guys. I'm hoping to see them mature. In order to get far, we have to rely on our talent and our growth."

Badger returns home to battle Elkhorn Thursday.

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