Vanessa Rockne couldn’t have asked for a better situation for her first season as a head tennis coach.
She takes the reins of a Yankton High School girls’ tennis squad that returns every varsity member from last year’s run to a 10th place finish at the state tournament.
“I think that’s ideal for a new coach,” said Rockne, who graduated from YHS in 2012 as the program’s career leader in singles wins (148).
Rockne, who went on to play tennis at Mount Marty College and was named the 2013 Great Plains Athletic Conference Player of the Year, has been a volunteer assistant coach for the Gazelles for the past two seasons.
Her team will open its season today (Thursday) with a triangular in Brookings, against Milbank and Brookings.
The Gazelles bring back all six singles players from last year’s state tournament and all three doubles tandems: Josie Krajewski (Sr., flight one), Maggie Schaefer (So., flight two), Olivia Tennant (Sr., flight three), Maddie Binder (Sr., flight four), Peyton Tramp (Sr., flight five) and Stacia Sherman (Sr., flight six).
Krajewski and Tennant combined for flight one doubles at the state tournament, while Tramp and Schaefer were flight two, and Binder and Sherman comprised flight three.
“Having that familiarity with their personalities and their competitiveness will definitely be an advantage,” Rockne said.
That group of returners will also be joined by a handful of other players: Ashlyn McGhee (Sr.), Lauren Moon (Sr.), Lauren Gillis (Jr.), Kayla Marsh (So.), Frannie Kouri (Fr.), Camille McDermott (8th), Addison Gordon (8th) and Lexus Sherman (7th).
Getting everyone on the same page will be key early in the season for the Gazelles, according to their coach.
“It’s nice because the girls know each other so well, but you have those new girls who come in at a different level,” Rockne said. “We have to get everyone on the same level; not even just with their level of play but with their mindset.”
That’s where the guidance of the experienced players for the Gazelles will be particularly crucial, Rockne added.
Krajewski, in particular, said she is excited for that opportunity.
“I’m just expecting and hoping to be a good example for all of your younger players out there,” she said, “and to provide them with some leadership.”
Yankton will make its home debut on Aug. 24 for a quadrangular with Rapid City Stevens, Vermillion and Watertown. The Gazelles will then have one other home event, a Sept. 19 dual with Vermillion.
The Eastern South Dakota Conference Tournament will be held Oct. 1 in Harrisburg, while the South Dakota State Tournament will be contested Nov. 7-8 in Sioux Falls.
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Aug. 15 Brookings Tri. 10 a.m. (YHS, Brookings, Milbank)
Aug. 20 Vermillion Tri. 11 a.m. (YHS, Vermillion, Lennox)
Aug. 24 Yankton Quad 9 a.m. (YHS, R.C. Stevens, Watertown, Vermillion)
Aug. 30 Brookings Quad 1 p.m. (YHS, Aber. Cent., Brookings, Harrisburg)
Aug. 31 Brookings Jamboree 9 a.m. (YHS, Roncalli, Huron)
Sept. 6 Mitchell Tri. 2 p.m. (YHS, Mitchell, Pierre)
Sept. 10 at O’Gorman 4 p.m.
Sept. 14 Roosevelt Tri. 9 a.m. (YHS, Aberdeen Roncalli, S.F. Roosevelt)
Sept. 17 Mitchell Tri. 11 a.m. (YHS, Mitchell, S.F. Lincoln)
Sept. 19 vs. Vermillion 1 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Spearfish noon (at Mitchell)
Sept. 23 Madison Tri. 1:30 p.m. (YHS, Brandon Valley, Madison)
Oct. 1 ESD (Harrisburg) 8 a.m.
Oct. 7-8 State (Sioux Falls) 9 a.m.