There isn't a senior to be found on the varsity roster of Effingham High School's girls tennis team, but second-year coach Angela Woods still thinks she has a tough, competitive group to work with.

"Our overall strength is that we have strong players," said Woods, who also spent four years as the assistant boys tennis coach at EHS. "The whole team is young and right now. This gives us an opportunity to build the team with consistency knowing we have at least two years together without too many changes."

Juniors Meghan Scott and Emma Johnson headline the list of returning letterwinners along with sophomores Morgan McWhorter and Rachel Gouchenouer.

Meanwhile, a freshman will step in and immediately command some serious varsity respect.

"Lauren Hoekstra will be leading our team this year," said Woods of her top frosh. "She comes to the team with many accomplishments in tennis already. We're confident Lauren will be a main factor throughout her high school career."

Madisson Haake is another promising freshman who already finds herself amidst the Flaming Hearts' top eight, while Gabrielle Klein, Kaitlyn Gruelly and Alexis Dare are other ninth-graders new to the squad.

Speaking of newcomers, junior Katie Silva will step right into a varsity role in her first year on the team, while classmate Brooke Altman is also on the team for the first time.

Another junior, Anna Percival, took a year off after playing her freshman season and will be expected to contribute as a varsity player.

"Scott is a team captain," said Woods, getting back to her returning letterwinners. "Johnson has been a state tournament participant for the last two years.

"McWhorter was also a state participant last year in doubles."

Shelby White, a junior, doesn't come into the season with any varsity letters, but has been tough in early workouts.

"White has worked hard this summer and will be very instrumental in keeping the team challenged," said Woods.

Other players on board include sophomore Ashley Dittamore, sophomore exchange student Iona Verster and senior Swati Patel.

Patel will compete at the junior varsity level. Verster hails from Australia.

"We're a team working together," said Woods, summing up her charges. "Even though tennis is an individual sport, in high school your success not only comes from your win, but from the team winning.

"Working together and supporting each other is how we will succeed."

Dustin White can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 123 or dustin.white@effinghamdailynews.com.

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