By GREG MENGELT
For the past three years, Floyd Central’s Olivia Boesing has dominated Southern Indiana girls’ tennis.
Silver Creek’s Kat Hebble has been working hard to change that.
Hebble has been among the top singles players in the area over the past two years. But she hasn’t been able to beat Boesing. And her Dragons have lost to Boesing’s Highlanders 5-0 in each of the past two regional championships.
So Hebble took to the courts this offseason. Silver Creek coach Robert Briscoe said he believes that — through hard work and hundreds of hours on the tennis court — his junior star has made up ground on the Highlander senior.
“There’s not a lot of improvement that’s going to come from the high school season,” Briscoe said. “Most of the improvements come in the offseason. In the month and a half that we play tennis matches, it really shows how much time she’s working to become a better player.”
The Dragons will face the Highlanders on Monday. After being sick and missing Saturday’s Jasper Invitational, Monday’s matchup against Boesing will be Hebble’s first big test of the year. It’s a showdown that will show if her hard work is paying off.
“We’re really good friends, so it’s fun,” Hebble said of facing Boesing. “It’s good to have good competition every once in a while.”
“You always want to have a nice test at the beginning of the year to see where you’re at,” Briscoe said. “After [Hebble] gets to play Boesing on Monday, she’ll know what she has to do to improve. These are the best two players in the area, so we’ll know where everyone lies.”
Hebble is concerned about more than just her matchups with Boesing — or even Jeffersonville’s Morgan Reilly, Providence’s Jacqueline Hollkamp or New Albany’s Kanii sisters. Hebble’s goals for the season lie more in the team. The Dragons have won 10 sectional titles in a row, but they haven’t won a regional crown since 2008.
“Our goal is to beat Floyd Central in the regional,” Hebble said. “Monday will hopefully show us where we are and where we need to improve to beat them. Pretty much, our whole season is about finding a way to beat them in the regional.”
By all indications, Silver Creek will be very good in 2013. The question is how good.
It’s a question that can’t be answered yet. In six matches, Briscoe has used six different lineups. He has a diverse group with several players who can thrive at singles or doubles.
“The good thing is that I’m comfortable putting seven players in five positions,” Briscoe said. “I don’t know if it really matters where I put people. I have confidence that I can put people out there who will do what they’re asked to do.”
“I think it’s a positive,” Hebble said. “We get to see a lot of different varieties and see who’s best at what position. We have plenty of time to figure that out before it really matters.”
Briscoe is currently enjoying experimenting with differing strategies. But he knows at some point, he’ll have to settle on a permanent lineup.
“Eventually, I know that will have to end,” Briscoe said. “I don’t know if I have a certain date [to have the lineup set]. There are going to be tough decisions made in the next month.”
GIRLS’ TENNIS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jacqueline Hollkamp, Providence
Hollkamp won the New Albany Invitational at No. 1 singles by going 3-0 and beating New Albany Erin Kanii 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 on Saturday. She then beat Jeffersonville’s Morgan Reilly for the first time, 6-4, 7-5, on Monday.
OTHER TOP SINGLES PERFORMANCES
• Abigail Hurtgen, Clarksville: Hurtgen defeated Kendyl Wheatly of Borden 2-6, 6-4, 10-5 to win the New Albany Invitational No. 3 singles title.
• Marin Kanii, New Albany: Kanii went 3-0 and topped Austin’s Jessie Davidson 6-1, 6-4 to win at No. 2 singles at Saturday’s New Albany Invitational.
• Ashley Johnson, New Washington: Johnson got the Mustangs’ only win with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Lanesville’s Elise Lawson on Thursday.
GIRLS’ TENNIS DOUBLES TEAM OF THE WEEK
Paige Kruer and McKenzie Owens, Borden
In their season opener, Kruer and Owens went 3-0 to win the New Albany Invitational championship on Saturday. Kruer and Owens came from down a set to defeat Emily Hoffer and Lauren Hoffer 1-6, 6-3, 10-6 for the title.
OTHER TOP DOUBLES PERFORMANCES
• Rebekah Knittle and Jenny Block, Silver Creek: Knittle and Block swept New Albany’s top doubles team of Emily and Lauren Hoffer 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday.
• Marisa Thomasson and Kendra Tanner, Henryville: Thomasson and Tanner beat Tabitha Coats and Asia Hunt of Eastern to help the Hornets to a 3-2 victory on Friday. The duo then beat Amanda Kemp and Christen Walker 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 in Monday’s 5-0 win over New Washington.
• Jules Jenks and Emily Lewis, Jeffersonville: Jenks and Lewis helped the Red Devils sweep the doubles events and edge Providence 3-2 with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Abbie Shelton and Olivia Bass.