Lady Celt Megan Thompson charges the net in a game last season. The girls tennis team boasts a huge contingent of returning players this season. (File photo)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The head coach of McNary High School’s girls varsity tennis team is well aware of how nice the girls on the team can be, it’s just that he wants them to realize that there’s a time and place for everything.

“What we have to do is be more aggressive out on the court,” said Mark Kohley, McNary head coach. “They’re incredibly nice, they’re the nicest girls I’ve had to work with, but they have to move up to the net and be aggressive in multiple facets of the game.”

With many returning players, it’s not so much that the team doesn’t realize what’s needed, execution is what’s proven to be the sticking point. Delaney Engle proved the point when asked what it would take to make the switch.

“We have to go out there believing we can break them,” she said, then blushed as she realized the ferocity of the statement.

The thing most likely to work in the Celtics favor this season is experience. The roster is packed with athletes returning to the varsity ranks.

“We’re a lot more experienced, but we need to not be tentative,” said Allie Labrousse, who returns to the courts in doubles action with sister Jenny.

Other returning players include: Allison McGregor, Jill Jungwirth, and Katrina Cabanlit.

Kohley also has an eye on doubles partners Lexi Price and MacKenzie Melendy who moved into the ranks of varsity late last season from the junior varsity roster.

“They’ve got a lot of potential,” he said.

The team’s two freshmen last year, Katie Stignei and Megan Thompson, also return as sophomores with a year of varsity experience under their belts.

Kohley has added freshman Sandy Childress to the mix this season.

“She’s had a lot of experience and it’s going to be interesting to see what she does. We’ll see what happens when she gets into real live high school competition,” he said.

The Celts’ first match had been scheduled for Monday, March 12, but Oregon’s liquid sunshine prompted a postponement.

Kohley expected to be moving players around a bit throughout the preseason as he attempted to find the right combinations in doubles and suss out who would be the strongest contenders for the singles spots.

“I have some ideas and they have some ideas, hopefully in about a month we’ll all agree,” he said.

In the interim, the Lady Celts were not without a plan for improvement.

“We’re really going to be working on our groundstrokes and our serves keeping everything down and in. More consistency, really,” Jenny said.

McGregor said the depth of experience should help the team through the toughest moments.

“We all know what it takes to be able to finish a match and win,” she said.