SPRING PREVIEW: New era begins for Manistee girls tennis program

Manistee’s 2018 girls tennis team. Front row, from left: Trinity Herbert, Kellie Raczkowski, Haley Harland, Katie Huber and Ava Bladzik. Back row, from left: Lauren Mikolajczak, Maddy Tabaczka, Breanna Alexander, Jaelyn Thomas, Alice Fink-Jensen and Camilla Rannisi. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee’s 2018 girls tennis team. Front row, from left: Trinity Herbert, Kellie Raczkowski, Haley Harland, Katie Huber and Ava Bladzik. Back row, from left: Lauren Mikolajczak, Maddy Tabaczka, Breanna Alexander, Jaelyn Thomas, Alice Fink-Jensen and Camilla Rannisi. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee girls tennis will build virtually from the ground up, as new coach Vicki Sheffield takes the reins of the program for 2018.

Sheffield inherits a team that has struggled to post positive results over the past few season, so her short-term goals for the team are modest ones.

“What we’re looking at doing is just taking the girls from where they’re at, and improving the skill that they have,” Sheffield said. “For those who are relatively new to the sport, just teaching them the fundamentals, getting them ready for competitive play, and just creating that interest and love of the game.

“It’s a game you can play for a lifetime.”

The Chippewas have three seniors on the roster, Trinity Herbert, Kellie Raczkowski and Haley Harland, but the bulk of the team are juniors. Harland is new to tennis.

Thanks to the weather not cooperating with outdoor endeavors, Sheffield has not had a chance to get a full picture of what she has to work with, but looks forward to evaluating the team with fresh eyes.

“We have some idea of where our strengths are,” she said. “There is some great technique we’re seeing, great strokes, lots of hustle, but putting that talent together and translating that into success in a match will have to wait.

“We purposely haven’t asked the girls where they played last year, let’s just see what we have. We’re looking at this from a new perspective.”

Sheffield, formerly the executive director of the Manistee Recreation Association, said that the lack of a feeder program has hurt the varsity program over the past few years, and that she hopes in the longer term to revive what used to be a symbiotic relationship between the two.

“When I started, we had the high-school coaches run our camps,” she said. “We used to get a hundred kids come out to the camp, but then we had a lapse. The numbers dwindled, the interest dwindled, and that’s something that the school talked to us about, trying to get the interest with the younger kids and introduce them to the sport.”

Manistee will not host any matches this year due to the unsuitability of the local tennis courts for varsity-level play. The Chippewas will begin their season on Saturday, April 14 in an invitational tournament at Grant.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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