Overall participation is climbing for the Chi-Hi girls tennis team.
The Cardinals have a sizable roster of varsity and junior varsity competitors hitting the court this fall for seventh-year coach Stephanie Linzmeier.
The team is already into its season and has reasons to be excited. Numbers have grown as more players are returning to the sport after a pair of COVID-impacted seasons.
“We are definitely more like our pre-COVID numbers,” Linzmeier said. “Numbers are higher.”
Overall, the Cardinals have 36 players in the program, including large classes of seniors, sophomores and freshmen. Seniors Lexxi Sullivan and Ally Richardson are multi-year players as the top doubles team for Chi-Hi and are also team captains this season. Seniors Erica Swanson, Lilly Krenz and Izzy Runstrom have experienced as singles competitors, while Emma Albert, Alaina Gerrish and Serina Pichla have played in both singles and doubles competition.
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The team also has a number of seniors joining the team for the first time this year with experience from other sports. What that provides is a roster with plenty of options for Linzmeier to utilize.
“I think the benefits being we have flexibility with our roster,” Linzmeier said of her program’s numbers. “We can move people around as needed. So trying out different doubles partners and seeing who works well together and who is competitive and who is ready to compete and who is athletic and picking things up quickly. So we have a lot more flexibility with our roster in that aspect.”
Chi-Hi has already played a busy start to the season with two home events and many on the road. The common theme for the program this year has been instruction and growth as competitors of all ability levels look to build upon the base they entered the season with.
“We’ve got kids that are brand new learning how to score, learning a forehand/backhand, how to serve,” Linzmeier said. “So having your beginning of the season baseline and then getting better and better each day (is important) and then for specifically for the juniors and seniors who haven’t played, learning quickly and adapting and being competitive. So teaching the kids (to) learn to compete has been a pretty prevalent theme at the varsity level.”
Chi-Hi is also in the second season of its growing middle school program. More than 40 players will start a seven-session course of learning the fundamentals of the game. Linzmeier said most other schools in the area already have middle school programs and doing so allows those younger players to learn the game earlier on, allowing players to be more advanced when they enter the high school program.
“I think things are definitely trending in the upward direction,” Linzmeier said. “Numbers are going up. We’re in the second year of a middle school program. So some of those that were in eighth grade last year are now freshmen this year. So we’re starting to see the benefits of doing that middle school program.”
Most recently, Chi-Hi fell in a dual at Eau Claire North on Thursday.
Fans who want to see the Cardinals in action at home still have a few more chances to do so. Chi-Hi hosts home duals on Tuesday against Menomonie for senior night and Thursday against Eau Claire Regis/McDonell. The Cardinals close the regular season with duals at New Richmond (Sept. 13) and Eau Claire Memorial (Sept. 15) before a home dual versus River Falls on Sept. 20. The Big Rivers Conference championships is slated Tuesday, Sept. 27, and will be hosted by both Eau Claire North and Memorial.