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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rich Lindgren, back center, runs the Dawson County High School tennis team through drills at Jaycee West Park on Thursday. The team lost 21 players to graduation last year, but 12 freshmen joined the team this year to help replace the graduates.

DCHS tennis readies to add to rich tradition (slideshow)

By Anthony Varriano

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

It’s a good thing the tennis courts at Jaycee West Park were expanded because the Dawson County High School tennis team needs all the courts it can get. 

Coming off a year in which 55 students played tennis at DCHS, the historically popular and highly decorated program returns 53 players this season. 

And all this after losing 14 girls and seven boys to graduation in 2013, including three-time girls’ singles State Champion Morgan Opp and fifth-place finisher Jordan Johnson.

“We’re pretty lucky,” head coach Rich Lindgren said in regard to the number of students playing for him this season. “We’re young, but we’re going to be alright.”

The State A runner-up Lady Devil squad returns just four seniors, but that includes Meriah Taylor, who won two matches at Divisionals last year, and Annie Hill, who scored a Divisional win in doubles with now-graduated Emilie Schaub. Hill will likely take another player under her wing and hopefully on to State. 

Seniors Morgan Mires and Christina Wood will help lead a team full of young talent, including a very familiar face of coach Lindgren’s. His granddaughter, Ceeara Staiger, chose to play tennis over softball this season, and she’s worth keeping an eye on as a potential varsity contributor as a freshman.

The boys return a few more seniors than the girls. Their seven seniors include singles State qualifiers Haydn Petterson and Nathan Sickler, who will look to improve on their third- and fourth-place Divisional finishes, respectively. 

Gavin McPherson will be looking to replace doubles partner Blake Stanhope, and sophomore Dennis Berg will also be looking for a new doubles partner to replace Zach Palmer of the fifth-place State finisher.

Lindgren is one of the most methodical coaches when it comes to pairing players for doubles teams, and whether or not McPherson and Berg play together will depend on the younger candidates. Lindgren traditionally pairs an older player with a younger one to provide a coach on the court to set an example, but he has also paired upperclassmen together for a competitive advantage.

Assisting Lindgren this year are Todd Opp and Jennifer Wesen, who have both coached in the past.

“They’re both experienced coaches,” said Lindgren. “Sometimes it’s best if I just stay out of their way.”

The Red Devils have won 23 state titles under Lindgren’s tutelage. The boys have won 13 and the girls 11.

“I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun,” he said.

Anthony Varriano can be contacted at rrwriter@rangerreview.com

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