Pictured is the 2012 Kennett high school tennis team. Pictured from left to right (front row): Maddie Wood, Ally Mowrer, Karah Brandt, Darby Sparks, Kate White, Carissa Oliver and Taylor Decker; (back row): Kara Heeb, Kelsey Washburn, Kate Shetley, Anna Kay Hilburn, Alexa McPherson, Anna Brooks and Sydney Davis.
Kennett, a traditional juggernaut in girls tennis, is in search of its sixth straight district championship.
"We had a great year last year," Janet Hilburn, who is beginning her 19th season as head coach, said. "As I say every year 'we've got to get back to getting in shape and working on fundamentals to become a better team.'
"We lost five seniors," coach Hilburn continued. "We have a big hole to fill."
Kennett returns four of its six varsity starters off of a 2011 varsity team that finished 16-3 and beat Dexter 6-0 in the Class 1 district championship.
"My four returning starters are Anna Kay Hilburn, Darby Sparks, Kelsey Washburn and Kate Shetley," coach Hilburn said. "Right now we've got a few injuries on the team and that's going to play a part. We are going to have to really work to get those girls back."
Two of Kennett's four returning varsity starters - Kate Shetley and Darby Sparks - proved close to unbeatable last season. Sparks and Shetley lost less than five doubles matches in 2011 and were unbeaten in doubles entering the final month of the 2011 season.
"We had a really good doubles season last year," Sparks said. "I think we will be doubles partners again this year. We are going to work hard and hopefully get to state this year. We were so close last year."
Kennett returning varsity starter Kelsey Washburn experienced astronomical success in singles matches last season and hopes to improve her singles record in 2012.
"I lost one time in singles to Notre Dame," Washburn said of the 2011 season. "I'm looking forward to that match this year. I want to come back and do a little better this year. I hope to beat Notre Dame in a singles match."
Anna Kay Hilburn, who played in the No. 1 singles position on the 2011 team, hopes the team will continue its success her senior season.
"We are hopeful to do just as good this year as we did last year and maybe better," Anna Kay Hilburn said.
Kennett finished one point shy of its first trip to the state final four in school history in the 2011 season. Lutheran South defeated Kennett 5-4 in a state quarterfinal contest last season to book its second straight trip to the state final four.
"It's a boost for us to go deeper into the state tournament this year," Anna Kay Hilburn said of the one-point loss to Lutheran South.
Kennett's players spent time over the summer preparing for the upcoming season.
"We've been working really hard this summer," senior Kate White said. "We've had open courts for about a month now. We've been out here hitting on the ball machine and working hard."
Kennett opens its season on Aug. 23 with a 4 p.m. road contest at Jackson.
"It will be tough," Sparks said. "Jackson is a really good team, but last year we opened the season with a win. Hopefully we will be able to do it again this year."
Kennett has three straight home games following its road opener. Kennett will host Notre Dame on Aug. 27, Charleston on Aug. 29 and Dexter on Sept. 4. All home games are scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
"We have a tough schedule throughout the season," coach Hilburn said. "We start off hard from the get-go. That's why these first two weeks of practice it is important to get with it."
Coach Hilburn said two of Kennett's first four regular-season opponents are among the more talented teams in the district.
"We stay in the same class this year," Hilburn said of the district. "We have won that several years in a row. Our competition I believe will be Dexter and Notre Dame. They had young girls last season and they were very solid even though we won."
Kennett will play six home games and eight road games in the 2012 season. It will also compete in the Sikeston Invitational on Sept. 9.
"Everyone should come out and watch the tennis team," Anna Kay Hilburn said. "It is going to be a great year."
2012 Kennett Indians Tennis Schedule
|8/27||Notre Dame||Home||4 p.m.|
|9/6||Corning, Ark.||Away||4 p.m.|
|9/10||Cape Central||Home||4 p.m.|
|9/11||Notre Dame||Away||4 p.m.|
|9/13||Poplar Bluff||Home||4 p.m.|
|10/1||Start of team district||TBA||TBA|