Talented, tenacious, teenage tennis titans take team to top

With the coming of spring and warmer weather, the Ames High tennis courts are once again busy with activity. Tennis season has started. For the AHS Girls Tennis team, the season started even before Spring Break, with a week of practicing on indoor courts. Now, practices have moved outdoors, leading to occasional frustration caused by a bright sun, strong winds, and, at times, snow. Last year, the Girls Tennis team had an exceptional season, with a record of 11-1. The team placed third at the state level, with players placing in both state singles and doubles. It will be hard to repeat such an accomplishment, but head coach Len Thiede is optimistic. “I am very confident in this year’s team,” Thiede said. “Four of our top six players are returning, and we have some people who will make a difference. We also have strong leadership from the seniors, since three seniors are three-year, and will be four-year varsity letter winners.” This optimism is shared by most of the players. “Even though we lost a couple top players, we have some good incoming freshmen,” said sophomore Evelyn Qin, who ranked second on the team last year as a freshman. “I think we will have a similar, if not better, season.” However, Thiede is apprehensive about how solid the bottom of the varsity lineup will be. Pretty much all the varsity spots except for the top four are up for grabs. Overall, there is not much proven experience for varsity playing, especially the bottom positions of varsity singles. Tennis is not all about winning, though. “It is always fun to hang out with the team,” said Qin, “and I get to meet people that I wouldn’t have otherwise.” This year, Jesse Von Behren, a P.E. teacher at Ames High School, is joining the team as an assistant coach. Although he is not as experienced at tennis, he does bring coaching experience to the team, since he coaches both football and basketball. “Mr. Von Behren relates well with young people, as both a teacher and a coach,” said Thiede. “Although he hasn’t played much tennis, he has potential and is a quality person.” Today is the first competition of the season – the varsity tennis players will spend the day in Boone, playing a tournament. Their next home game will be on Thursday, April 10, against Ankeny. “I am looking forward to the season and the players’ improvements,” said Thiede. “I know that no matter what, we will have a successful season.”