KINGMAN - Last year, the Kingman High girls tennis team surprised everyone by turning their 3-11 record in 2011 into an 11-3 mark and a trip to the Division I state team tennis tournament.
This year, the challenge for coach Traci Rosenbach and the Lady Bulldogs is to prove that last year was no fluke.
"There are high expectations," Rosenbach said. "I think the girls think they are going to do well. I need to reign them in, in that they need to work hard. I know some of the other schools have commented on us being the team to beat this year, which makes me a little nervious."
KHS will open the season this afternoon in Prescott Valley against Bradshaw Mountain. The Lady Bulldogs beat the Lady Bears 9-0 last year and Rosenbach feels the match will be a good early season test for her team.
"Looking at the teams we played last year, I think Bradshaw will be a good gauge for us," Rosenbach said. "I know they have all their returners or quite a bit and we have half of ours. I think it will be a good to see where we sit."
KHS lost its No. 2 and No. 3 players last year in Kendra Wilson and Jill Collins due to graduation. Their No. 6 player, Alexis Diaz, is out this year because of injury.
Because of this, junior Gabby Huffer moved up to the No. 2 spot from No. 4 and junior Courtney McCans moved from No. 5 to No. 3.
"It's a jump," Rosenbach said. "I think they will be fine and they are able to do it. It just won't be as easy for them as it was last year."
Last year, Huffer was 12-0 at No. 4 while McCans finished the year 12-1 at No. 5.
Senior Natalie Casson returns to the No. 1 spot while newcomers Alejandrina Zapata, Rorie Nelson and Lara Iozzo will be competing to fill the final three spots.
"I think it will be the same thing as last year. It was a good surprise and hopefully we will do it again this year," Casson said. "We have a young team. We lost a lot, so it will be fun but there is a little bit of pressure."
Zapata, a foreign exchange student from Mexico, is expected to be the No. 4 singles player. Nelson and Iozzo played on the junior varsity team last year and are expected be at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. However, Iozzo is facing some stiff competition from Trudy Massie for the sixth and final spot on varsity. Massie will start for JV but could make her presence felt on the varsity squad later in the year.
"They have been challenging like crazy," Rosenbach said. "Right now it's pretty much set, but I told (Massie) to keep working because she may be able to move up."
KHS will travel to the Kiwanis Tournament this weekend in Peoria before going to Lake Havasu Wednesday and then hosting Prescott on March 7.
"I'm excited for the year and I'm excited to see how it pans out," Rosenbach said. "I think we are in the same boat as the other teams. A lot of them have their returners back. I think it will be who improved - and who didn't."