Victoria Morales sat amongst the players holding her small dog, while Mark Bullerdick chatted with a coach and Tessa Blough checked in on her former teammates.
Three of the key players from last year who graduated in the spring had the chance to watch the newly composed Cody boys and girls tennis teams open the new season last Tuesday at home.
None of them are easily replaced. Blough and Bullerdick were both No. 1 singles last year – Blough a four-time All-State player – and Morales anchored a solid No. 2 doubles team.
But they left behind talented teams that Tuesday showed that they’ll be able to manage as both started 2-0.
“They’ll be good,” Morales said.
The Fillies, coach Norm Sedig said, should once again be a contender for a state title along with Cheyenne Central and Kelly Walsh, the two teams that have finished in the top two spots the last two years. Cody was third each time.
“It should come down, again, among Cheyenne Central, Casper Kelly Walsh and the Cody Fillies for the state crown,” Sedig said.
The Fillies boast three state champions, including Teagan Thompson at No. 1 singles and the No. 1 doubles team of Maddy Icenogle and Simona Wambeke.
Thompson was the state runner-up last year at No. 2 singles after winning the year before. While she didn’t get any practice time in the spring while working for U.S. Sen. John Barrasso as a page, she made up for it in the summer. She played in tournaments, went to camps and worked with a private coach to prepare.
“I played a lot this summer,” she said. “I wanted to get back into the swing of things to feel good for the season.”
Icenogle and Wambeke didn’t rest on their laurels as the defending state champs. They played in the summer as well and went to a tennis camp in Laramie.
“Overall, we’ve improved from the camp, from tournaments this summer,” Icenogle said.
They’re one of two Fillies doubles teams with years of experience playing together.
At No. 3 doubles, Soffy Anderson’s been playing with Nathalia Morales for so many years she couldn’t remember at first.
“We’ve spent seven seasons on the same doubles team,” Morales said.
Junior Torrie Schutzman had gotten used to doubles, but last Wednesday morning she defeated newcomer Ashlynn Staggs in a playoff match to be the No. 2 singles player this year. Schutzman is ready for the pressure.
“I like it better,” she said of singles. “You can’t blame your teammate. It’s all your mistakes, it’s all on you.”
That makes No. 2 doubles a newcomer team, as sophomore Anna Brenner, rising up from junior varsity, is playing alongside junior Staggs, who moved from Nashville, Tenn., in the spring.
Staggs was sidelined by an injury for her sophomore spring season but is healthy and now and ready for the different styles of many of the players out West.
“The way that they play is really different,” she said. “They’re able to get it back in play, not as worried about the type of shot.”
Last season Jackson Golden and fellow No. 3 doubles player T.J. Smith surprised just about every other team in the state, going from unknown to a win at regionals and fourth at state.
With Smith back again to anchor a doubles team, Golden has continued his rise and is the No. 2 singles player for his senior year alongside sophomore Cody Champlin at No. 1 singles.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a player improve as fast,” Sedig said.
For his first two years of high school, Golden spent his falls on the gridiron playing wide receiver and defensive back.
A couple of concussions and other injuries made him rethink football though, so he said last year he let friends convince him to go out for tennis. Since that surprising first season he’s worked hard to improve.
“Winning at regionals and then coming up short at state made me want to get better,” he said. “Plus I really fell in love with tennis.”
Champlin has a similar drive after a tough state performance last year at No. 2 singles.
“I worked on my approach shots a lot, my volleys and serves,” he said. “My goal is to improve my base skills, see where it goes from there.”
Sedig said while the Broncs have always had talent, they’re now improving their skills.
“I worked on my serve,” said No. 1 doubles player Solomon Stewart. “I’m trying to get it more consistent.”
Consistency is still a question for Broncs doubles, with Stewart’s partner from last year, Dillon Romero, having missed pre-season playoffs with an injury.
Instead, Hayden DeMaranville played with Stewart early and Sedig said late last week the final alignment for doubles remained in flux.
Wherever they play, the Broncs are ready. Senior Ian Townsend is entering the year as an alternate, but said he’s ready to move up if needed.
“I felt a little winded in the playoffs, but I’m getting back into it,” he said.
Up from last year’s JV are junior Tristan Dollard, and sophomores Mitchell Schwab and CJ Dominick. Sedig also expects big things from freshman Tade Gevings.
If enough Broncs have good games up their sleeves, Sedig said Cody may surprise people the way No. 3 doubles did last year.
“Last year we were young, inexperienced and talented,” he said. “This year we are a little older, experienced and more talented. It should be a good year for the Broncs.”