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2014 Girls Tennis Preview: New Palestine

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Coach: Chris Hardin, ninth season

2013: 13-3. Lost to Fishers 5-0 in regional semifinal. Beat Mt. Vernon 3-2 in sectional championship. Won Hancock County Tournament.

2014 Projected Lineup

#1 singles: Nicole Beaty (12)

#2 singles: Emily Kiefer (12)/Kristi LeBeau (11)

#3 singles: Emily Kiefer (12)/Kristi LeBeau (11)

#1 doubles: Kara Miller (12) & Kylar Litteral (12)

#2 doubles: Lauren Hardebeck (10), Jamie Mittman (11), Lexi Meyer (11), Savannah McKnight (11), Alana Henry (9), Megan True (11)

Outlook: Winners of six sectional crowns in the past nine seasons, the Dragons are loaded up for yet another title run.

Senior Nicole Beaty, the county and sectional champion at No. 2 singles and an honorable mention All-Hoosier Heritage Conference choice, is elevated to the top singles spot with the graduation of All-HHC selection Jen Roberts.

“Nicole Beaty has put in a lot of time into her game,” veteran coach Chris Hardin said. “Her ground strokes are amazing. She’s hitting the ball well on both sides.”

Junior Kristi LeBeau, the county champ at No. 3 singles, will be positioned in at either the No. 2 or No. 3 singles. Senior Emily Kiefer will fill the other singles’ slot after going undefeated as the JV team’s top singles player in 2013.

At doubles, the senior duo of Kara Miller and Kylar Litteral are set for the No. 1 spot. Miller and 2013 senior Danielle Spearing garnered all-conference honors at No. 1 doubles. Both Miller and Litteral – who played with Abby Poole at No. 2 doubles last year – won sectional championships.

There are a number of contenders for the No. 2 doubles spot. The entire lineup is not “set in stone” according to Hardin, who has 38 girls on his roster.

“We have a good mix of younger kids and several older kids back from varsity,” Hardin said. “We just have to get out there and see who does well.

Inclement weather has limited New Palestine’s outdoor time, but Hardin expects to gain more information on his squad watching today’s scrimmage against visiting Shenandoah.

“Starting over spring break was not ideal,” Hardin said. “We had a lot of girls absent and the first week back was not ideal weather, but it never is. We will continue to try and figure out what the best lineup is.”

The Dragons have qualified for the sectional finals in each of the last 10 seasons, and in seven of those years – including the past five – rival Mt. Vernon has been on the other side of the net. In addition to its sectional title last year, NP won the 2011 sectional in that five-year stretch in which all five championship matches were decided by a 3-2 margin.

Hardin credited Mt. Vernon and New Palestine’s strong middle school teams for their consistent success, while also noting similar programs are emerging at Eastern Hancock and Greenfield-Central.

“If I have a senior, she’s been playing for seven years. At most schools, seniors have only been playing for four years,” Hardin said. “It’s a catch-22 sometimes because you have to get rid of some bad habits, but we are able teach more strategy instead of focusing on fundamentals.”

Season begins: Friday at New Castle.

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