Preparing for the first match of the year is already hard enough on teams when Mother Nature keeps them inside for the first two weeks of the season.
Imagine traveling to a match not knowing whether it would be a scrimmage or a meet until you arrived.
That's what happened Monday, as Lakeland Union High School made the trip to Ashland. Just hours before the match began, both teams concluded the spacious, brand new, multi-million indoor space was adequate enough to hold the first boys' tennis meet of the season. The Oredockers were able to secure a 5-2 win on the day.
"We didn't know if the nets were going to be there, if it was going to work, if the balls were going to be effective, but it turned out that it was good enough for a meet," LUHS head coach Ted Dasler said. "We've had virtually no individual work so it was the first time our kids had been playing singles as a match or even against another player (because) we've only had one court. So this was their baptism."
With many players attempting to play competitively for the first time all season, no one would blink if the results weren't outstanding.
Despite all the challenges, Lakeland still managed to put forth a strong effort against a solid Ashland team.
"I thought that they competed well. Some kids were just trying to figure out how things work," Dasler said. "We brought along one kid that had never played tennis. I asked him what he learned and he learned how you score, where you stand, about tiebreakers. He got the hang of how things work."
Both wins came from the same family as Matt Holmes secured a win at No. 2 singles, topping Casey Hilts in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.
Meanwhile, Tony Holmes won his first singles match after moving away from doubles. Holmes would best Rhett Hopper at No. 3 singles, 7-6, 5-7, 10-1.
"Both of them were difficult, but they won," Dasler said. "Tony, this was his first time out there as a singles player and he went to three sets."
Aaron Petersen lost to Carson Honkala, 2-6, 2-6, in No. 1 singles.
Meanwhile, Jack Garcia paired with Zach Kane in the top doubles spot, also falling, 2-6, 2-6.
Josh Kakuschke, who was a doubles player last season, played No. 4 singles, losing to Garett Kabasa.
It was the first match, so Dasler couldn't make any guarantees about whether the lineup would remain the same going forward, but he saw some things he liked for the first time out.
"The incumbents, Matt and Aaron, got the top two spots. We still have to have the competition for people to prove where they belong," Dasler said. "With the singles, I liked how that turned out there. You can't go based on one match and you still have to have some kind of competition. Aaron played an awfully tough kid and I thought he played really well. He lost 2-6, 2-6, but his serve was working well and he had some really nice moments in the match. Score is really not indicative of how well he played."
Jayson Krause and Sam Berger fell to Ben Mikkonen and Erik Van Horn in No. 2 doubles, while Alex Tucker and Henrik Vollmer lost to Kyle Sopper and David Wallis at third doubles.
At the end of the day, it was just a relief to finally see some competition after being cramped in the corner of the fieldhouse for practice for the entire first two weeks of the season.
"I think the kids loved it. Practice just gets old," Dasler said. "You want to get out there and get spread out and work on things that are more appropriate for what you need. It's hard to satisfy everybody when you have a large group on one court. You have to do things for everyone in some way. When you have everybody on one court, you've got both experienced people and people who have barely hit a ball before. That's a challenge."
Lakeland is scheduled to make the trip to Antigo on Friday for the first Great Northern Conference meet of the season, followed by a non-conference match against Shawano.
At press time, a large amount of snow was expected to hit the Northwoods over the weekend, so the match remained up in the air.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @NickSabatoLT.