Coach Sterling Fetty expects continued success for the Prescott High School tennis teams this spring. That means the girls qualifying for the state tournament for a 10th consecutive year and the boys returning for the second straight season.
In 2014, the seventh-seeded girls advanced to the AIA Division 2 Elite Eight before losing to eventual state champion Catalina Foothills. The sixth-seeded boys fell in the first round to Mingus Union.
Fetty has four good reasons for his optimism this spring - senior Kennedi Todd and sophomore Sarah Jane Schott, who played 1-2 in singles last year when the Lady Badgers finished 12-2 in the regular season, and seniors Nick Marroquin and Jack Bradley, the boys' top two singles players and exceptional doubles pair when the team also had a 12-2 record last season.
"I expect Kennedi and Sarah Jane to battle back and forth for the No. 1 spot this spring," says Fetty, who played at Prescott High in the late 1990s. "They both play at a high level mentally. They analyze the game really well.
"Kennedi is a competitor. She doesn't back down from anyone. She is a great baseline player who makes the transition from offense to defense on the court really well.
"Sarah Jane has played in a lot of tournaments. She grinds it out from the baseline. She's hitting the ball a lot harder. It's has been fun to watch."
Marroquin, a left-hander, won all 14 of his singles matches in 2014. Bradley will play at No. 2. Last season the duo advanced to the quarterfinals in the state doubles competition before losing to the eventual champions.
"They're good friends," Fetty says. "Both are strong, aggressive competitors. They have been working hard in the weight room. Nick is lefty, which is a huge advantage in doubles. He has a heavy spin on his serve and tries to get to the net more often than Jack, who plays from the baseline. Jack has a big serve and good ground strokes."
Because the state tournament requires players to choose either doubles or singles in the individual competition, it's too early to determine whether Marroquin and Bradley will try to become Prescott's first state doubles champions since Fetty and Corey Bennett won the title in 1999. Last year the Badgers' No. 3 player Dylan Darr, now at the University of Arizona, competed in singles at state.
Darr's brother Jack, a sophomore, is expected to play No. 5 singles for the Badgers.
"He's a steady player who doesn't miss a lot of shots," Fetty says. "Plus he's had the advantage of playing against his older brother."
Junior Brandon Nguyen, who played No. 4 singles last season, will move up a notch to No. 3. Sophomore Jake Schulte, who also plays basketball at PHS, will jump to No. 4. He played at No. 6 a year ago.
No. 6 singles is wide open. Fetty hopes that newcomers Aaron Marquardt and Julio Ortega, both two-sport athletes at PHS, will contend for the spot.
Last season, Todd and Schott won their opening doubles match in the state tournament before bowing out in the second round. Ellie Foreste, who competed in singles, also won one match before being eliminated. She will return to her No. 3 singles position this spring.
The Lady Badgers will be inexperienced in the lower part of their lineup, but Fetty has high hopes for two freshmen, Mackenzie Roberts and Lexi Hammes. Junior Bailey Anderson, who played some varsity doubles a year ago, also has an opportunity to play singles. She played for the Lady Badgers' state tournament basketball team. Juniors Anna Miller and Cyprus Thomas and sophomore Maya Goligoski will also contend for a spot in the starting lineup.
The Badgers' 2015 home opener is this Friday against Sunnyslope.