Without a veteran player returning, putting together a lineup for the Desert Vista girls tennis team could be a puzzle this season.
But at least coach Angel Singer has interchangeable pieces.
The Thunder’s No. 1 player last season, Kat Hunnicutt, won’t be playing this year, but otherwise Singer has everyone back from last season and it’s just a matter of moving the names up and down the chart.
“We don’t have players that are light years apart as far as talent so we should be able to capitalize on that,” Singer said. “I have a group that across the board is pretty much at the same talent level from one through six and that’s good because we can interchange things to accommodate different teams.”
Justine Quaggan, a junior who is also a volleyball player, likely will start on the top playing rung but will have to protect that spot against classmate Kacie Bottock.
Sophomores Ali Icenogle and Jennifer Kahn, whom Singer called “the future” of the Thunder program last season, likely will be in the third and fourth spots. And, with experience from last season, they also could make for a formidable doubles combo.
They were undefeated in doubles in the junior varsity program last season.
“Ali is the heart and soul of this team this year,” Singer said.
Unlike past seasons when most players didn’t have outside tournament experience, Quaggan, Icenogle, Bottock and junior Nicole Flanagan did play during the summer and fall.
Singer is looking forward to getting someone like Quaggan, who is used to a team, mentally playing on what is basically an individual sport.
“Everything about her is team oriented,” Singer said.
Seniors Kelly Neujhar, Emily Rath and Molly Olague will be playing for the fifth and sixth spots on the roster along with senior Alicia Porter, who Singer sees as playing in the middle of the lineup or in doubles.
“We’re interchangeable in doubles which is nice because we can play based on strength and weaknesses,” Singer said. “We won’t necessarily have one and two or three and four playing doubles together.”
Desert Vista also is going into a new region this season.
“I have no idea of how we’ll stack up,” Singer said, “but that’s what makes it exciting.”
The Thunder will see new faces at Pinnacle, Centennial and Chaparral.
“We’ve never played them before but this will be a year without Corona,” Singer added.
Tempe Corona del Sol has been a powerhouse, especially in the former Central Region, which included Desert Vista.
“It’s going to be very hard to separate our varsity from the junior varsity because they’re all in the mix, and they all get along so well,” Singer said.