NEW ULM - This season's New Ulm boys tennis team is beginning a new era as Peter Engeldinger begins his first season as head coach.
Engeldinger has been with the New Ulm school district for 20 years, but this will be his first year as a head coach at the varsity level. The Eagles finished 5-8 overall and 2-3 in the South Central Conference last year.
"I'm excited, it's going to be fun," Engeldinger said.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Isaiah Johnson and Billy Griffith are two of the seniors on the New Ulm boys tennis team this season. Shoveling the tennis courts has been one way the team will bond this spring.
Engeldinger said there are 15 to 16 boys out for both the varsity and the junior varsity teams. He said there are three players from Minnesota Valley Lutheran on the team.
Sam Frederickson, Billy Griffith and Isaiah Johnson are the three seniors on the team.
Griffith has been playing tennis since seventh grade.
"I want to make it past the first round (in sections) and have a winning record," Griffith said.
He said his highlights as a player have been those times when he's jumped off the fence to make a game-winning shot.
"I like the non-conference (meets) because you're not as prepared, and you see different playing styles," Griffith said. "It makes you better (due to) the variety of the opponents. St. James is usually a pretty good team."
Griffith wants to improve on his serve as a focal point this season.
"You keep the ball in play and you let them make the mistakes," Griffith said.
His future plans include attending South Dakota State University for Business and Agronomy. For sports, he said he probably will pursue intramural flag football, basketball and tennis.
Johnson has been playing tennis for four years. His regular season record last year was 13-4. He has also lettered in football and basketball.
"We want to get more wins than last year, and we want to advance past the first round to the playoffs," Johnson said concerning his goals for the upcoming season. He wants to improve his ground game, specifically his ground strokes and his serving.
Being named to the SCC All-Conference team last year is one of Johnson's top memories. He also cited a match with Chaska as being a highlight.
"There was so much emotion. It went back and forth, and nobody could get an upper hand," recalled Johnson. New Ulm won the match 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.
Johnson said he likes playing teams like Waseca, St. Peter and Hutchinson because, "They provide really good competition."
Johnson plans to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth for Exercise Science, and he is considering whether or not to try out for football there.
Engeldinger sees Hutchinson, Mankato West, Mankato East, New Prague and St. Peter as being the top teams in the area this year.
"I think we can be competitive," Engeldinger concluded.