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by Mark Cheffey
The PHS girls tennis team is under new but familiar guidance this season.
Long-time coach, Jessica Gottman moved on during the off-season to become the new Palmyra Elementary School assistant principal, and she is being replaced by Alysha Barnett, who coached girls tennis her first five years in the district, and even boys tennis for two years.
She said she is “very excited” to return as coach.
“I absolutely love the game of tennis and hope I can instill a love of the game in young players,” said Barnett, who has strong numbers with 22 players out this season, and many of them have worked hard during the off season.
“The girls have already worked really hard this first week of practice, and I am excited to get the season started,” Barnett said.
She will be filling the shoes of a coach who has built up the program that has seen considerable success over the years, and Barnett said she is looking forward for the opportunity to keep the program strong.
“It is exciting to step in and coach a team that has such great participation and that has high expectations that she already had in place,” Barnett said. “I have high expectations for the team and that is easy to continue when it has already been established.”
Barnett has a mix of veteran varsity players as well as players who look to make the step up.
“The varsity lineup is not 100 percent set as of right now, as some challenge matches are still going on,” Barnett said. “However, it looks like we should probably have four returning varsity players, seniors Maura Gottman, Jeorgia O’Brien and Abbey Mann, and sophomore, Molly Gottman.
Looking to fill the two open varsity spots are juniors Hadlie Kroeger and Marina Meyer.
“That could change a little as we continue challenge matches into next week,” Barnett said. “We’ve had several players vying for the open varsity spots which speaks highly of our junior varsity players who will have a very strong team also.”
Maura Gottman, a senior, who competed at state in doubles last year along with Katy Rindom, who graduated, will lead this year’s squad as the No. 1 singles player.
And, she will be joined by her sister, Molly Gottman, a sophomore and No. 2 player, as her doubles partner.
“They are a great duo who have already played in some competitions this summer and have done very well,” Barnett said. “They have great skills and have high expectations.
“However, we won’t look past anyone or assume anything. We will keep working hard so when we get to postseason competition they’ll be ready.”
Barnett said the other two doubles teams will be strong as well, but the lineup was still working itself out.
“In tennis you have the opportunity to compete in the postseason both as a team and individually,” Barnett said. “We will work hard and definitely keep our expectations high as we enter postseason play.”
Rounding out the high school roster are senior, Emmalee Drebes, juniors, Natalie Bartz, Ashley Bode, Kenzie Bollin, Maggie Keim, Elizabeth Salo, Rilee Shrum, Lakeyn Smith, Taytum White and Sara Kliewer, sophomore, Laura Noland, and freshmen, Emily Comer, Ava Fohey, Marissa Gottman, Erin McChristy and Madisyn Wilt.
Helping bolster Barnett’s optimism about this year’s team is how hard many of them worked on their game this past summer.
“Many of our 22 players have been very dedicated to off season play,” Barnett said. “We have quite a few who have gone to lessons at the Racquet Club in Quincy, Ill. and have played in tournaments over the summer in Quincy.
She was also impressed by the attendance during open courts during the summer.
“Many freshmen who hadn’t previously played tennis at all came all summer long and worked really hard at the fundamentals, and it is already showing in practices this fall, and I am super proud of them,” Barnett said. “Also, we have older players who have put in countless hours just playing and/or have put in hours at the Racquet Club and their hard work is really paying off.
“That’s what it takes – lots and lots of playing time.”
Barnett has the continued help of Tracy Fountain as assistant coach.
“I already appreciate her so much,” Barnett said, “She is an amazing person to work with, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to coach with. She’s been coaching for several years now, so she is very familiar with how things work and when things need to be done.
“I value her opinion and appreciate her wanting to do whatever it takes to help the players and make them better.”
2022 PHS Girls
8/30 at Moberly 4 p.m.
8/31 at QND 4 p.m.
9/1 Hannibal 4 p.m.
9/3 at Battle 10 a.m.
9/8 Fulton 4:30 p.m.
9/12 at Helias Inv. TBA
9/13 Mexico 4 p.m.
9/15 at QHS 4 p.m.
9/17 Marshall Tourney
9/19 at Hannibal 4 p.m.
9/20 at Kirksville 4 p.m.
9/21 Father Tolton 4 p.m.
9/27 QND 4 p.m.