8/11/2017 7:29:00 AM Oestreich takes over LUHS girls' tennis program
Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times
Lakeland head coach Tom Oestreich instructs his players on the first day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 8. Oestreich spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Thunderbirds.
Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times
Morgan Ahrens went undefeated in the Great Northern Conference as a fourth singles competitor last season. This year she is expected to bump up to first or second singles.
Lakeland Union High School finished second in the girls' tennis standings last season, but as the team began the 2017 season on Tuesday, there were changes abound.
Not only did the Thunderbirds lose several seniors, including exchange student Elodie Martin, who qualified for the state tournament last season, but also head coach Ted Dasler retired in the spring.
Tom Oestreich has spent the last two seasons as a volunteer coach with the team and was the head coach of a boys' varsity team in Eveleth, Minn., before getting a teaching job at Lakeland. Now he takes over as the head coach of the T-Birds.
While the program won't go through a major overhaul under Oestreich, like any coach, he intends to put his own spin on things.
"We're just trying to do more cardio workouts to start our lessons," Oestreich said. "I just want to keep the kids moving the entire time and not have them sit around too much, have them work hard and have fun playing tennis."
Much of the first few weeks of the high school sports season are spent getting kids back into shape before preparing for the first competition. This year, the tennis team must condense it all into one week as the first match of the season is scheduled six days after the first practice.
Not only do athletes have to get into game shape, but Oestreich must determine his lineup on a team that has holes to fill due to graduations.
"It's kind crunch time so we don't have a whole lot of time to figure out our lineup right now so we'll do the best we can with the girls that are here," Oestreich said. "We still have girls that are gone for various family vacations. It's going to be quick before we have to fill out our first lineup."
Not only did Lakeland lose Martin at first singles, but also Ali Bognar in second singles.
Now-senior Riley Curtis went 7-3 in third singles during Great Northern Conference play, while Morgan Ahrens went a perfect 9-0 in fourth singles. Both girls are expected to step into the top two positions this year.
The top doubles tandem of Laura Rodriguez and Rachel Koester have also graduated, as has half of the second doubles team, Alexis Fieck.
The other half of the second doubles team from 2016, Hayley Fieck, returns for her sophomore season, while the third doubles tandem of Catherine Trapp and Reilly Coon are back also after placing third at the GNC meet last year.
Sophomores Bailey Fox and Cierra Hayman and freshmen Anna Smith and Bayleigh Goodman also could play a role on the team this year.
"We'll have a bit of a younger team and I guess that's what we need to figure out this week," Oestreich said. "Figuring out who of those girls from last year's JV team are going to step into those varsity roles. We have a great group of girls this year, they work hard and we should have a great season."
Lakeland opens its season by hosting a GNC match at 3 p.m. against Medford on Monday.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.