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AUSTIN EDITION - Packers pack experience, depth

Tennis squad takes aim at Big Nine title

By Guy N. Limbeck

glimbeck@postbulletin.com

The Austin girls tennis team hopes to bounce back into Big Nine Conference title contention this season.

The Packers had been a league force for four seasons before dropping to 4-5 in the Big Nine a year ago. But with six of 10 starters back, the Packers could again be a force.

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"We've got some good experience back," second-year coach Josh Bendickson said. "Last year, we were rebounding a little bit, and this year we hope to do some growing."

Austin opens the season at home today with a match against United South Central. The Packers remain fairly young, with four of the six returning starters being underclassmen. They also feature several seniors.

"We have a lot of great leaders," Bendickson said. "We have 10 seniors."

Andrea Holt and Kendra Adams are the seniors who played varsity a year ago.

Sophomore Anna Hebrink and junior Jessica Astrup were the No. 1 and 2 singles players a year ago, and they return to those roles. Holt moves up a spot from No. 4 to the third singles slot. Hebrink, Adams and Holt all had winning Big Nine records in 2003.

"It's nice to have three singles players returning," Bendickson said. "We're going to look to them to get us off to a good start."

Freshman Gretchen Hebrink, Anna's sister, is likely to play at No. 4 singles.

The doubles picture is a little more jumbled.

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"The doubles spot is perhaps tougher to determine," Bendickson admitted. "We have a deep group of doubles players."

Adams and freshman Autumn Jurgensen are returning doubles players. They are expected to form the No. 1 unit.

Junior Sara Bain is the other returning varsity player, and she is competing for a doubles spot. Seniors Sarah Bridgeman and Rachel Carlson are the captains, and both are battling for a doubles spot.

Eighth-graders Hanna Middlebrook and Kathryn Gavin could pair up as a doubles team, probably at No. 3. Senior Daniella Serrano, a foreign exchange student, also is in the running for a doubles spot.

"I'd be disappointed if we didn't finish in the top half of the Big Nine," Bendickson said. "Our goal is to be in the top three. We don't have a weakness in the lineup."

With that consistency the Packers should surpass last year's overall mark of 6-10.

Bendickson says Rochester Mayo, a perennial Big Nine power, is the team to beat in the league.

"Traditionally they're the team to beat, but we hope to give them a run," Bendickson said. "We're going into every match thinking we can win. We're going to have a positive attitude."

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AUSTIN GIRLS TENNIS

Roster

Seniors -- Kendra Adams*, Andrea Holt*, Sarah Bridgeman#, Rachel Carlson#, Maxine Mason, Anne Ingvaldson, Abby Monson, Sarah Stuhr, Bri Carlson, Daniella Serrano. Juniors -- Sarah Bain*, Jessica Astrup* Jennifer Bird, Caity Anderson, Kayla Baker. Sophomore -- Anna Hebrink*. Freshmen -- Autumn Jurgensen* Gretchen Hebrink. Eighth-graders -- Hanna Middlebrook, Kathryn Gavin.

* -- Returning letterwinners. # -- Captains

SCHEDULE

Aug. 24 -- United South Central, 4:30 p.m.

Aug. 28 -- New Ulm, Winona Cotter, 9 a.m.

Aug. 31 -- Winona, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 -- at Rochester Century, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 7 -- Faribault, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 9 -- at Mankato East, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 11 -- Northfield, Waseca, 9 a.m.

Sept. 14 -- at Rochester JM, 4 p.m.

Sept. 16 -- Rochester Mayo, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 -- at Albert Lea, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 -- Mankato West, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 -- at Fairmont, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 -- at Owatonna, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 -- Big Nine tournament at Rochester, 9 a.m.

Sept. 30, Oct. 2 -- Section team tournament, 4 p.m.

Oct. 7 -- Section team finals at Rochester, TBA

Oct. 9 -- Section individual tournament at Rochester, TBA

Oct. 15 -- Section individual tournament at Rochester, TBA

Oct. 22-23 -- Team state tournament, TBA

Oct. 24-25 -- Individual state tournament, TBA

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