Girls tennis makes its debut at Howards Grove

by Dave Boehler Review Sports Editor


Coach Elizabeth Hill (center with hat on) talks to the new Howards Grove/Elkhart Lake girls co-op tennis team on the first day of practice Tuesday. – Photo by Dave Boehler Coach Elizabeth Hill (center with hat on) talks to the new Howards Grove/Elkhart Lake girls co-op tennis team on the first day of practice Tuesday. – Photo by Dave Boehler The first-ever girls tennis practice was held Tuesday at Howards Grove, and it was hard to tell if coach Elizabeth Hill was serious or joking when she told her players to make sure they come back the next day.

No one said starting a new sports program was easy.

“It’s been a thought of mine for the past four years,” Hill said. “Just because every year we’ve always had girls playing on the boys team. And I’ve even had quite a few really talented girls playing varsity on the boys team, and it’s just always been a hard thing for girls to play high school varsity boys teams. So my thought is that there was a want for it.

“We’re a big volleyball school, but there’s a lot of times where girls don’t play volleyball their freshman through senior year. And we’ve got a lot of students who I don’t think are doing as much their junior and senior year. Sometimes they back out of a fall sport they started out their freshman and sophomore year with. So I thought let’s try and see if any of them are interested. And the interest seemed to be there.”

The interest was also at Elkhart Lake, as the two schools formed a co-op team.

Two Resorters are on the squad, and both are freshmen.

“I was very excited when they said that we were going to have a team, but I was also kind of nervous because I don’t know anybody at Howards Grove,” Elkhart Lake’s Alyssa Tegen said.

Neither did Resorter Maggi Elias, who has played tennis with Tegen since the second grade.

“So it’s good having her on the team,” Elias said.

Hill, who played tennis at La Crosse Logan (2001 graduate), has coached the Tigers’ boys tennis team the last nine seasons.

On Tuesday, she completed her first practice as girls coach by running sprints and doing exercises alongside her new team.

“It’s a good feeling, definitely. That’s for sure,” she said. “I like to see that there are girls that are going to be competing with each other. I like to see that there’s more options for girls. This is a lifelong sport that they can be playing. Really, you only need one other person. So I think that’s a huge thing.”

Dave Schmid, Howards Grove’s athletic director since 2010, has dealt with hockey and wrestling co-ops before. Although those sports were already established, creating a new program is a similar process.

Schmid went to the school board and then the Eastern Wisconsin Conference for approval, before submitting paperwork to the WIAA.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s hard to do,” he said. “You’ve just got to follow steps in the proper order. It takes some time. The biggest thing is you have to be able to prove there is a need or an interest, which we were able to do. Tennis is a unique sport, you don’t have to field a whole bunch. I think that’s probably the hardest step. … It’s just a process, and it’s time consuming because you just have to follow and meet deadlines, but it’s not hard at all.”

Elkhart Lake athletic director Bart Larson agreed.

“We co-op enough sports with Howards Grove, we always try to help each other out,” he said. “Wrestling is a big one and they help us out with boys tennis. I talked with our administration to see what our interest was from our girls and parents. We knew we had some interest with the younger kids, so it was kind of a nobrainer.”

Last spring, Hill held meetings, emailed students and set up a free tennis program once a week in the summer.

Howards Grove senior Erin Schwoerer hadn’t played since eighth grade, so she spent a week in De Pere practicing with an assistant coach at UWGreen Bay.

“I was excited because I enjoy tennis,” she said.

Hill assumed she would have enough girls for a varsity team, but 15 girls – including five seniors, three juniors and five sophomores – are on the roster.

“The fact that we have 15 out makes me really happy,” Hill said. “This being the first year, I think this is just the starting point. … I don’t think enough middle schoolers probably know about the program yet. So if we can start introducing the program to them earlier, I think our numbers will start to increase.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking just to make sure we get everything in order. Obviously a lot of these players are new to the sport, so trying to find a lineup is going to be a little bit interesting to kind of see where everyone plays best at. I think there’s a lot of talent in some of the players that are out here, especially the first time being on the court. But I have faith we’ll only improve as we go on through the season.”

The co-op team opens its season Monday at the Bay Port Invitational.


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