The lineup of the Mainland Regional High School girls tennis team's changed drastically this preseason.
But it wasn't because the Mustangs graduated a loaded senior class. In fact, Mainland only graduated one senior, Press All-Star Nicole Fahringer, from last year's 15-4 team.
And not many teams carry four first-team Press All-Stars into the next season. So despite some changes, Mainland has a strong outlook for the upcoming season.
"Our team had some unexpected twists, already, but we are really solid down the line," said 17-year old Northfield resident and senior co-captain Elise Nachtigall in a phone interview Wednesday. "We are all equally matched, and we would love to be the No. 1 team (at the end of the season)."
Some of the changes include junior Rachel Rha leaping from first doubles to first singles. Rha's former partner and senior co-captain Haley Krachman is now at third singles. The two went 21-2 and won the Cape-Atlantic League individual doubles title last season and were a first-team Press All-Star as a team.
Junior Lily Glassberg returns to play second singles, one of the similarities from last season.
"I am hoping for a successful season. People are playing in some different positions so we'll see how that plays out," coach Kathy Yohe said Wednesday. "We're working on our doubles now and hoping that they will be strong. We have historically had strong doubles teams, and I am hoping for the same this year."
Mainland's second doubles team of junior Cassidy Scott and senior Katie Rha are returning to the doubles lineup. However, challenge matches are still being decided and could result in them playing with different partners.
The CAL tournament runners-up also earned first-team Press honors. Former third singles player, Nachtigall, is challenging for a doubles spot along with newcomer and junior Blaire Adler.
The Mustangs' strength at doubles could propel them to several key wins this season against defending American Conference champion Egg Harbor Township and second place Ocean City, the other top teams in the conference.
Nachtigall, in particular, is hoping to use her skills from third singles to contribute at doubles.
"The strategy at third singles is usually to be consistent and keep the ball in play," she said. "So as a doubles player, that will help keep the rallies going and set up points for my partner."
While on the surface it appears there are many changes to Mainland's team, the talent remains basically the same.
Yohe even sees some similarities to the 2010 South Jersey Group IV championship team. Nachtigall, Krachman and Katie Rha were freshman cheering on the sidelines.
"It was inspiring (to be a part of)," Nachtigall said. "I thought, 'When I get the chance to be on varsity, I want to be able to say that I'm carrying the tradition of hopefully winning that title again.'
"The girls who won, they were so helpful when I was younger to build up my game to become the varsity player that I am today."
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