The Lady Wave varsity tennis team had one of the biggest presences in years at regionals and a fourth place state doubles team. Second-year coach Jessica Knuckolls said she expects this year’s team of 15 can live up to the standard set last year with its first match in Division 1-A at home against Sparks on Thursday.
“Practices have been going good,” she said. “I have a nice big team so I have a lot of resources to choose from. This year, I was real nervous at the beginning because I have a lot of seniors and so when you’ve got a team, you better hope you’re training some new freshmen because half of your team is going to be gone at the end of the year.”
Among those returning seniors are Izzy Martinez, who took fourth in state with former senior Paige Thorn last year, as well as Melanie Knuckolls, who was Fallon’s leading singles presence at regionals and state. The two are adjusting to difficulties considering Martinez is getting used to a new partner, and Melanie is recovering from a broken toe earlier this month, but Jessica said she is still expecting big things.
“Izzy has a new partner but it’s somebody she’s played with before, Kayla Bekiares, who is excellent so they bring a professionalism for the team as they’ve both played for four years and I think they’re going to take the No. 1 spot for Northern Nevada,” coach Knuckolls said. “(On Melanie) We’re just kind of waiting to see how that heals and how she feels. Today she was out there playing a doubles match, and she was hobbling a little bit, but she’s getting better every day.”
Coach Knuckolls added all the major players her daughter couldn’t take last year have since graduated, which along with a solid roster, boosts her confidence. Fellow seniors Delaney Young, Bekiares, Kiley Woolsley, Lana Quint, Sarah Inglis and Mikaela McCormick make up the seniors who, alongside sophomores Jamie Bekiares and Randy Manley make up the upperclassmen. Freshmen Ashby Trotter, Brooklyn Whitaker and Kate Dunkin as well as junior Maycee Wadsworth fill out the team.
“I have some great players,” coach Knuckolls said. “The girls I have who are seniors who always struggled last year have improved so much, as did my second year players of those seniors. I’ve got some wonderful returning players but I’ve got a lot of new players who have been improving throughout the year, so we’ve got a good program with some good support.”
Practices opened in the summer, and August was when the girls were expected but not required to take things more seriously with mandatory practices beginning with the school year, with plenty of time to prepare for a team like Sparks on Thursday.
“The Sparks we know, they have a really hard time to get girls to come play tennis in the demographics of their high school,” coach Knuckolls said. “We want to encourage that school and encourage those girls we play against to continue. We don’t want to just go beat and crush them because we like to keep playing. We like to win but we also like to have tennis promoted at every school. Some of my newer girls will get the chance to get out there and play, and I think it will be a good time, but I know they always have a hard time finding a team.”