CEC tennis team to rebuild this seasonIf you were to ask Cloquet tennis coach Steve Rickstrom who will line up for his team in its April 12 season opener at Eveleth-Gilbert, he couldn’t give you an answer.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
If you were to ask Cloquet tennis coach Steve Rickstrom who will line up for his team in its April 12 season opener at Eveleth-Gilbert, he couldn’t give you an answer.
Competition for places on this year’s team is going to be fierce – especially after the program graduated seven seniors from a year ago.
“We graduated a lot of kids,” Rickstrom said. “We have three regular players back from last season and we have only one senior this year.”
That would be team captain Ryan Kedrowski, who played mostly in doubles a year ago. This year, Rickstrom said he might see time in singles. The other returning players are junior John Scheuer and sophomore Shawn Kedrowski, who played second singles a year ago and is expected to move to the top spot in most matches.
There are 26 players out for the team this spring, an unusually high number. However, 12 of those players are of middle school age.
“We are exceptionally young,” Rickstrom said. “We have quite the youth movement going here. It’s going to be an interesting season to say the least.”
Rickstrom has dealt with several other issues this spring as well – most notable being the late snow melt, which has forced the team to practice indoors at Churchill
“As far as early season practice, this is the worst year I’ve had,” Rickstrom said. “We had the varsity kids working outside doing snow removal from the courts, and the younger players at Churchill working on volleying and footwork. But it’s not an effective place to practice.”
That should go without saying.
“It’s a pretty small gym, with not a lot of space,” Rickstrom added. “It’s a whole different feel. The lighting isn’t good and the surface is different.”
However, it’s a place to play and Rickstrom freely admits that’s what matters most.
The large numbers out for the team present another problem, as there is no junior varsity team.
“We may have trouble finding places for these kids to play,” Rickstrom said. “Other places have middle school and JV teams and we don’t. In a tournament the young players will have to ride coattails until they are good enough to play in our top 10. We have numbers high enough to have a JV team but we lost coaches a few years back and until the economy improves we will make do.”
All that said, Rickstrom is excited about the potential of his young guns.
“Some of them are going to be pretty good,” he said. “Some of the seventh-graders have obviously played with someone, and they’re going to pretty good. I can see us having one full-time starter from the middle school group and a couple of part-timers.”
With Eveleth-Gilbert’s strong program using indoor facilities in nearby Virginia, Rickstrom’s team is at a disadvantage in the first meet.
“They are guaranteed to play whether it rains or not,” he said. “So, advantage them. It’s going to be tough. I do want to see our guys get some hitting in this week, somehow, some way.”
This early season will be all about Rickstrom learning about his young players.
“I want to see where we’re at and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m getting at the top of the lineup,” he said. “I don’t know about doubles. I can name three of the 10 who are likely to play, but we have a lot of ‘bubble’ guys. We have some 11th-graders who are probably thinking they will start, but the young kids got better over the summer so I have to see them hit and make comparisons.”