By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Coach Rick Miller and the Floyd Central girls’ tennis team could have chosen to put together a schedule that could have the Highlanders unbeaten year-in and year-out in the regular season.
Instead, Floyd chooses to take on the best.
The Highlanders will travel to Terre Haute, Crawfordsville and Zionsville for tournaments that will feature several ranked teams.
There also are matchups with some of Louisville’s best teams: Sacred Heart, Assumption and Christian Academy of Louisville.
There may be some losses for Highlanders, but their interest is improving and being their best for the Hoosier Hills Conference and the IHSAA tournaments.
“Nobody plays a tougher schedule,” Miller said. “We want to challenge the girls every weekend. It’s liking taking a test. You can take a lot of quizzes. But until you take the SAT, you don’t know how good you are. Every time we go out just about, we’re taking the SAT.”
“I’d definitely rather have some tough schedule and have some losses than play an easy schedule and just walk all over everyone,” said Floyd Central senior Olivia Boesing, who finished third in the IHSAA State Finals as an individual in the state tournament as a junior. “You’re not going to be prepared if you don’t play a tough schedule. There are going to be some losses in there, but that’s what makes you a better player. So I love the schedule we play.”
After falling to Japer 3-2 on Tuesday, Floyd will have more tests on Saturday when it hosts Columbus North, No. 14 Bloomington South and No. 2 Evansville Memorial — three of Southern Indiana’s top programs — in the Big 4 Invitational.
“It’s exciting,” Boesing said. “It will show us where we stand at the beginning of the year. You want to see where you can improve.”
“I’m looking forward to Saturday. I think it’s going to be a challenge for us,” Miller said.
Despite being young, Floyd enters the season ranked No. 4. That’s because Boesing is back with seniors singles players Katherine Dauby and Whitney Batliner also returning.
“We’re pretty young, but we’re never going to settle for anything less than winning it all,” Boesing said. “We want to win a state title.”
Boesing hopes to capitalize on a strong junior year and capture the individual No. 1 singles state title as a senior.
“Well, obviously I got third in state last year, so I’d like to win state,” Boesing said. “It will take a lot of hard work and dedication. Obviously, you have to shoot for the best and shoot to win.”
Floyd should cruise through its sectional and face its toughest area competition from Silver Creek, New Albany and either Jeffersonville or Providence in the regional.
Jeff returns three seniors, including No. 1 singles star Morgan Reilly, the daughter of Devils’ coach Mark Reilly. Morgan Reilly expects to challenge Boesing and Silver Creek’s Kate Hebble for the area’s top player.
The Devils also return seniors Julianna Jenks — a four-year starter who will play No. 1 doubles with Emily Lewis — and Macy Lancaster, who will team with Rachel Williams at No. 2 doubles.
“It would be nice for us to get into the top 20 [in the state] and win our sectional and do well in the conference,” Coach Reilly said.
Hebble leads a diverse Silver Creek squad that is favored to win its sectional again.
“She’s worked really hard over the past year making herself a top player in the state,” Dragon coach Robert Briscoe said of Hebble.
Seniors Katy Hawkins, Jenny Block, Rebekah Knittle and Gabby Dunn and sophomore Kelsey Scott join Hebble. All five players could all compete at almost any singles or doubles position for the Dragons, who expect to compete for Mid-Southern Conference, sectional and regional titles.
New Albany has two pairs of sisters — Erin and Marin Kanii and Emily and Lauren Hoffer — that should help the Bulldogs be one of the area’s top teams in 2013.
New Albany coach Bob Dusch said he still doesn’t know which Kanii will play No. 1 singles and which will be at No. 2.
“They’re so close,” he said.
The Hoffers will join forces at No. 1 doubles this season after playing on different doubles teams a year ago.
Dusch expects his Bulldogs to win another sectional crown, but he knows rival Floyd Central is still the team to beat in the regional.
“They don’t rebuild — they just reload,” he said of the Highlanders. “They’re going to be very tough.”
The junior class should help Charlestown to one of its best seasons in years.
Bailey Masingo, Sarah Embry, Erica Broady and Haley Trinkle — along with freshman Megan Crawford — should help the Pirates compete for a top spot in the MSC.
“We will be competitive,” Charlestown coach Chris Ryan said. “We had a good record last year and we are probably better at the top of the lineup — but not as deep — as last year. When we get beat, teams will feel good to get away with a win.”
Ryan said he also expects Silver Creek, Clarksville and Providence to be among the top teams on the Pirates’ schedule.
“Silver Creek is always good, as is Providence. Clarksville has three great singles players,” Ryan said. “We are going to find out a lot about our team early and work to improve throughout the season.”
With seven players returning with varsity experience, including all three singles players, coach Wayne Davis expects his New Washington Mustangs to compete for the Southern Athletic Conference championship.
Courtney Amick, Melanie Dieterlen and Ashley Johnson should give the Mustangs a tough singles lineup.
“I think we can be competitive enough to have a chance to win every match,” Davis said. “We just don’t have much room for error. I think all three of our singles players have a legitimate chance to win conference. Courtney Amick definitely has the skills to advance in [the post-season].”
Seniors Amanda Kemp and Christen Walker give New Wash a veteran No. 1 doubles team. Sophomore Morgan Baird and Breanne Ward at No. 2 doubles also should give the Mustangs some victories.
With five returning players, Henryville also hopes to contend for the SAC title.
Seniors Jordan Jeffers, Shelby Sinn and Natalie Bobay give the Hornets two strong returning singles players.
Juniors Alicia Lindley and Marisa Tomasson also give the Hornets doubles’ experience.
“I believe Jordan and Shelby have a good shot at contending for conference titles,” Henryville coach Brian Consley said. “We hope to have a winning season. Our goal is to be above .500 and compete for our conference title.”