The area high school girls' tennis scene will see plenty of new faces this fall and even a new team.
Along with Class 6A competitors Lawrence High and Free State, Seabury Academy joins the mix with its first-ever all-girls tennis team at the 1A level. Until now, Seabury's tennis team was coed and played only in the spring.
First-year coach Scott Elwell will lead the Seahawks through a shortened, five-meet schedule and is optimistic about the team's maiden voyage.
"I think we should have really good leadership," Elwell said. "Obviously, the more matches you get the better you can be because you're getting more match experience. But I think you have to start somewhere. As the team progresses and builds, it will be a little easier to schedule matches."
Seniors Brooke Sutherland and Gabrielle Dillon are expected to be the team's top singles players.
Seabury has just six girls on the squad - the minimum number required to compete in matches - so there will be no room for injury.
"Actually, I talked to them about that," Elwell said. "We can't have any of them getting hurt on me. As long as everybody can stay healthy and bear the heat, we should be OK."
At Lawrence High, second-year head coach Steve Hudson will have almost an entirely new team as the Lions lost five of their top six players from a year ago. Senior Lucy Liu, the only player with varsity experience, and Yoshika Crider, the top JV player from 2006, should contribute immediately.
Last season, the Lions finished ninth out of 12 teams in the Sunflower League and failed to send anybody to state. That's at the top of the list of things Hudson would like to see change.
"We'd like to take the talent we have and develop them as much as possible," Hudson said. "Hopefully, with all the young talent, we can build for the future."
More emphasis will be placed on doubles strategy, along with developing mental toughness and physical fitness.
Meanwhile, across town at Free State High, Firebirds coach Jon Renberger will lead his squad into action with no varsity experience.
Last year, the Firebirds earned a fourth-place finish in the Sunflower League and finished third at regionals.
Renberger pointed out that while there are no returning state qualifiers on his squad, the team's strength is in its depth.
"When you've got a deep, talented senior class, the next year is wrought with opportunity," Renberger said. "It doesn't mean that it has to be called rebuilding, it just means there is going to be a lot of change."
Seabury will be the first to kick things off for the city's tennis teams when it hosts Maranatha today. Free State will open its season on Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Shawnee Heights doubles tournament and LHS will open the season Aug. 29 at Leavenworth.