Earning a berth to the state tournament has a way of changing a program.
It’s no different for the Fallon girls tennis team.
The Lady Wave nabbed three spots (two in singles, one doubles) in last year’s Division I-A dance, although Fallon did not record a win. Despite the first-round losses, the Lady Wave program has experienced a boom.
Coach Julie Moore said 16 girls came out for this year’s club, the most in five years. Moore said last year’s success is the reason for the turnout.
“It’s emotionally hard this year,” Moore said. “We saw what we could accomplish last year. It lit a fire under these kids. The returning kids are like, ‘Yeah, we’re going (to state).’”
Becky Conner, who qualified for state in singles, returns to lead the team and aims for not just her second state appearance, but a singles title to cap her career. Joining her is the No. 1 doubles tandem of seniors Josie Bekiares and Hannah Lindsay, who earned berths in the Northern DI-A regional tournament.
“I can see those three girls going to state,” Moore said.
The rest of the lineup, though, is still a mystery as returners and newcomers battle for a starting spot.
With success also comes competition and more intense practices, Moore added. Those open spots are up for the players who consistently play at a high level.
Of the openings, Moore said she has two versatile players who could play singles or team up on the doubles court. Time will tell.
In addition, the Lady Wave snatched up four freshmen — Kayla Bekiares, Sarah Inglis, Mikaela McCormick and Melanie Nuckolls — for this season.
“It’s cool to see four freshmen that all have immense potential,” Moore said.
One of those is Inglis, who Moore said has played for six years. A bonus for Moore, is Inglis acted as a pseudo-team manager last year and is already familiar with program and coaching staff.
“She knows what to expect,” Moore added. “The other three are improving every day. I think we have a good shot at having a great year.”
As for the sixth-year coach, Moore said her coaching style has changed due to last season’s success. Her players are chomping at the bit for more swings in practice, so Moore has taken time to feeding more balls.
Although she has varied her style slightly, Moore still plays the role of agitator. She pesters the kids throughout practice and rides their nerves to produce a stronger mental game.
Despite the role, Moore looks at her role as more fun than serious.
“This should be fun,” she added. “They’re not getting paid for this. You have your moments where it’s tense and intense, but you should be having fun.”
Conner, meanwhile, is on a mission. Her summer practice schedule consisted of working with a private coach in Reno. During the Lady Wave’s practice sessions, she’s focused on every aspect of her game from smashing forehands and backhands to improving her first-serve percentage.
“I worked on about everything,” Conner said. “Some things I improved on, some things I still have to work on.”
The senior said most of her game has improved from groundstrokes to volleys. Moore, though, said it is Conner’s serve that showed the strongest markup. With more zip, it becomes easier for Conner to control the point and keep her opponent off balance.
“I want to win state, but if I don’t I at least want to go to state,” she said.