Apr. 6 — Spring marks one of head Jamestown High School tennis coach Paul Olson’s favorite times of the year.
For multiple reasons.
“The team is such a fun group of girls,” Olson said. “Some of the best times are just the van rides going to matches. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as hard as I do then.
“They are so fun to be around. I root for them so hard. I get to hang out and coach them for a couple of months out of the year and it’s just so much fun. I am really looking forward to it.”
Olson and the Blue Jay tennis squad kicked off its season on Monday and will head to Mandan on April 19 for their first conference match. The dual is slated to begin at 4:15 pm
Other than the Braves’ No. 1, the Jays are kind of entering its first match blind as Olson said Mandan graduated eight of its nine top players last spring – kind of the polar opposite of the Blue Jays.
“Our top eight players coming back all have varsity experience,” Olson said. “We have got five seniors coming back into the top-five spots in our lineup. That’s kind of nice as a coach having that kind of experience coming back.”
Phoebe Olson will be coming back for the Jays at the No. 1 spot while Olivia Schriock will be in the No. 2 slot.
Olson became the fifth-ever Blue Jay to place at a Class A state tennis tournament. Olson finished fifth and was the Blue Jays’ first singles state placer since Tania Thielman placed third at the 1984 tournament.
Schriock was in a state-qualifying doubles match at the 2021 West Region Tournament but fell just shy of making the trip up to Grand Forks.
Grace LeFevre will be back at the Jays’ third spot while Bria Nieswaag and Mya Henderson will likely round out the Jays top five but Coach Olson said the Jays will likely have some challenge matches between team members to solidify roster spots before competitions officially start.
“This is the most experienced roster we have had in my five years as a coach,” Olson said.
Any and all experience the Jays have will be needed if the West Region ends up being as tough as Olson is predicting.
“The WDA is going to be tough again this year,” Olson said. “There’s a lot of teams bringing back experience this year. It’s not just us. Minot’s going to be good – there’s no way to sugarcoat that. They are going to be a really solid team that will compete for the state championship this year.
Olson said that Bismarck St. Mary’s will also be bringing back a lot of experience with five or six very physically adept seniors at the top of their lineup. Olson also mentioned that Legacy will be a top team simply because of its athleticism.
“I think those will be the top teams in the WDA and then it’s going to be a fight to see who will be in that last state qualifying position,” Olson said. “That’s a spot we will be fighting for.”
In addition to the top five who will be leading the Jays, Olson said the Jays have a few more girls who will be helping the team attempt to reach the 2022 state tournament.
Junior Sophia Williams has been a part of the program since her middle school days. Olson said Williams has proven to be a great teammate over the years and her tennis di lei has much improved from even last year.
Isabel LeFevre, a sophomore for the Jays, is preliminarily entering the season as the Jays’ No. 6 holder.
“She is fundamentally a very sound player,” Olson said of LeFevre. “Lei She is super consistent, lei has really good strokes and it’ll be fun to see her continue to improve.”
Olson said Edie Hegerle is predicted to round out the Jays’ varsity lineup this season. The freshman got thrown into the mix of some matches last season as an eighth grader.
“She’s a really good athlete and a competitor,” Olson said. “Lei She’s one of those girls who gives it everything she’s got.
“I think that she’s going to be one – with another season of practice under her belt and more time to develop as a tennis player— who is definitely going to contribute to our team this year.”
Olson will also welcome a whole pack of middle schoolers, quite a few freshmen and some other slightly less experienced sophomores to the court this spring.
“They’re going to have to do a lot of growing this year,” Olson said. “We’re going to be working with them to get them ready to go for maybe not this April – but next April for sure.
“We’re going to have a lot of people who can’t drive a car play a lot of varsity matches for us next season.”
Through the opening two weeks of the season, Olson said the Jays will primarily be working to knock off some of the rust and re-learn and practice the fundamentals out on the court. The Jays will also work quite a bit on doubles and double strategy – mainly focusing on what the Jays’ doubles lineup is going to look like.
“We don’t have any of the combinations that we played with coming back,” Olson said. “We have to figure out who is playing well with each other or if we are going to change up our doubles lineup all the time.”
Olson said the Jays will also work on singles strategies
and point construction throughout a match, elements of the game that will hopefully help the Jays’ strategy as a team.
“If girls are putting in the work in practice and do well at WDA, I think there is a chance that anybody from our varsity roster could give (State) a run this year,” Olson said. “So much depends on draws and how the seeds end up falling but I think it could happen.
“I am excited for this year.”