In 2018, the Waunakee girls’ tennis team was a young group that went through their share of struggles.

This year’s Warriors return the majority of their lineup from last season. With another year of experience under their belts, the team has the potential to make a run at their first Badger North Conference title since 2016.

“It’s very helpful having experience come back,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Chris Nuenthel, who is entering his seventh season leading the team. “They should know what to expect with our schedule and hopefully worked hard to get better.”

The Warriors have seven varsity returnees from last season penciled into their lineup this year. Leading the way is the duo of senior Trista Ripp and junior Sara Sowinski, who are back at No. 1 doubles.

“They are looking better now than the end of the season last year, but they still have work to put in,” said Nuenthel of his returning No. 1 doubles tandem. “They are going to be seeing the best doubles teams from every school we play, and nothing will be easy… They need to be confident each point and be willing to go for their shots to get the point.”

Behind Ripp and Sowinski on the doubles side of the lineup, sophomores Danielle Rogers and Jadyn Statz will move from singles to form Waunakee’s No. 2 doubles team. The Warriors’ biggest question mark comes at No. 3 doubles, where a group of athletes including seniors Eliza Endres and Davina Gerber, juniors Julia Zabel and Kate Ludgate and sophomore Caitlin Grommon will all battle to form the best combination.

Waunakee’s singles’ competitors are led by senior Jena Opsahl, who elevates to the No. 1 spot this year after spending last year as the team’s No. 2 singles player. Taking her old spot at No. 2 singles is a newcomer this year: freshman Gretchen Lee. The remaining two singles spots are filled by sophomore Alli Larsen – who ended last year at No. 3 doubles – at No. 3 singles and senior Alexis Loomans at No. 4 singles.

Nuenthel hopes to have the lineup solidified early in the season to give players time to get comfortable with their roles, but there’s always the possibility of shifts in the lineup as the season progresses in hopes to have the best players on the court when the postseason rolls around.

“I don’t really care about wins and losses early on,” Nuenthel added. “But by the end of September, I want us to be playing our best tennis.”

Waunakee begins Badger North play on Tuesday, Sept. 3 when Beaver Dam comes to Ripp Park. The Warriors got an early start to their season; they played against some of the state’s top teams this past Saturday in Arrowhead against the Warhawks, Divine Savior Holy Angels and Whitefish Bay. It was a daunting opening day, as all three teams are ranked in the top-10 to start the season. Loomans secured the only victory of the weekend for the Warriors, defeating her Whitefish Bay opponent at No. 4 singles 7-6 (1), 6-3.

“It was great competition, and I’m happy to see we did better than last year, even with some of these teams being stronger than last season,” said Nuenthel.

Waunakee hits the court next this Friday and Saturday in the Madison/Milwaukee Challenge before heading to Edgewood on Tuesday in the Badger Challenge.

The team’s first home contest — on the freshly resurfaced home courts at Ripp Park — will come on Sept. 3, when the Warriors open up Badger North play against Beaver Dam.

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