Junior-infused SMNW tennis team looks to 2007
For Shawnee Mission Northwest girls tennis coach Ken Clow, 2006 was a season in which his squad set high expectations for itself and achieved them. Three Cougars went to state and the doubles team of Sanja Gunia and Lindsey Epperson impressed coaches there with their inspired play.
"I thought the season went real well," Clow said. "Lindsey and Sanja did really well. Both had great ground strokes. They would go down the line with the ball and beat people who would cheat to the middle."
And while Clow loses Epperson, Gunia and fellow senior Nina Luo to graduation, he finds that the cupboard is still pretty full. A set of 2006 juniors will return for next season as will a pair of talented sophomores to help bring the Cougars even more state hopefuls in 2007.
"We have a lot of good juniors coming back," Clow said. "We have four doubles teams coming back that could have played No. 2 doubles for us this year. Sometimes it was just one or two points in a tiebreaker that separated them."
Leading the way in a stacked junior -- soon-to-be-senior -- class are Jona Jonic, Mary Brauer, Cali Jones, Ashley Burdolski, Lindsay Berg, Katie VanSaun, Alex Emmerson, Kelsey White and Mia Jonic. Jona Jonic, Brauer, Jones, Burdolski, and Berg each spent significant time in the top eight singles or doubles spots throughout the season. The No. 5 doubles team of sophomores Amanda Boring and Cassie Slocum also will return.
Clow looks forward to the return of Jona Jonic, who came the furthest in her progression as a tennis player in 2006.
"Jona improved tremendously," Clow said. "She learned that when she went up to the net she had to do something with it. She used to play not to lose, and by the end of the season she played to win."
Clow also mentioned the improvement of Brauer in the doubles game and Berg in singles as reasons to be optimistic for next fall. Berg began the season as the team's No. 11 singles player but climbed her way up to No. 6 by the end of the season.
With all of the returnees and the dramatic improvement by many of his players, Clow is looking forward to a 2007 season in which the number of Lady Cougars who qualify for state could double.
"If we go to the Lawrence regional I think we have a chance to go to state in singles and doubles," Clow said. "The juniors are determined to come back better next year."
As Clow set one eye on what might be in the future for Northwest tennis, he also took time to remember just what seniors Epperson, Gunia and Luo gave to his program.
"They're just fantastic kids," he said. "Nina's in the top 10 of her class. They worked hard and were a lot of fun to be around. They're really neat kids. They always tried."