Kingman girls tennis coach Kasie Juelfs wasn't exactly optimistic at the beginning of the season.
Three or her top players were lost to graduation and then a couple more who were expected to play varsity didn't come out for tennis.
"It was hard at the beginning of the year.
I had lost my top three seeds — that hurt," Juelfs said.
"We had kind of shaky start with some of our players.
"We lost our No.
1 seed, but since we lost some of the girls the players have been closer than ever.
The unity is great."
Juelfs was especially pleased after the match with Mountain Ridge on Saturday.
Although Kingman lost 6-3, it was a moral victory because Mountain Ridge is the top team in the conference and a lot of teams come away from there with no wins at all.
So thus far in the season, the girls are performing well and have made some huge leaps from their play last year.
Nicole Potter, a senior, is the No.
1 seed for the Bulldogs and has the dubious honor of playing the top player on every opponent on the schedule.
"Nicole kind of has a tough job," Juelfs said.
"She'll be coming up against some tough girls.
She's got her work cut out for her.
"Last year she was about No.
5 varsity so it's a big jump up for her.
One thing I'm really happy about is she wants the job.
She wants the challenge of playing No.
She's been really positive.
She knows she might not win, but she's ready to give it her all.
It's really nice to see out of her."
Junior Maryn Brannies moved up to the No.
2 seed on Wednesday.
"She moved up the challenge ladder.
She beat Tarisha Patel on the challenge ladder," Juelfs said.
"It's really a big jump for her.
Last year she had played No.
5 and 6 varsity and sometimes even JV."
Although she was a lower seed, last year Brannies surprised everyone and finished fourth at the Northwest Region match.
"She worked real hard last year and went up and knocked off some top-seeded players in regionals and took fourth," Juelfs said.
"She'll be playing No.
It's not set in stone, because the girls all challenge so it could bounce around a little bit."
3 the Bulldogs have freshman Tarisha Patel.
"So far this year she and Maryn have both been picking up some crucial wins for us," Juelfs said.
"Tarisha is a freshman, but right now she's playing like one of my veteran players.
She's stepped up and taken a leadership role, which is nice for someone so young.
"She wants to win and she will win at all costs.
It's nice to have someone that young bring that element to the team."
Katie Ahlers, a senior, has taken over the No.
She's another player who has brought her level of play up.
"She played lower varsity last year and, some No.
1 in JV.
She moved up the ladder and she's stepped it up a notch," Juelfs said.
"She's more focused on her doubles.
Physically she's talented, but thinks she's better in doubles than singles.
"I expect her to come through and start picking up some big wins for us, especially playing at No.4.
I think that's a good spot for her.
She can work hard and challenge and may move up."
Laurel Kinsey, a junior, is in the No.
5 spot and is another pleasant surprise for Juelfs.
"Laurel has made a big jump.
Last year she was playing JV, in fact, lower JV.
She's always had the mechanics, but this year the consistency is finally getting there.
She had a lot of lessons and has the strokes and has the ability.
This year she has gotten really consistent,.
We're still working on her serve.
That's probably the biggest part of her game that needs improvement.
"She's been an ideal player to have.
She'll go out on Sunday and Saturday to work on her serve.
She's always willing to take the time to work on her game."
Sophomore Stephanie Chan anchors the team at No.
"Stephanie is a good one to have at the No.
I love it.
She'll pick up so many wins for us this year," Juelfs said.
"As a freshman she went undefeated and won the award for most promising player.
"She's picked up some big wins for us this year.
She's a good athlete in general and she knows what it takes to win.
She's one of my only three-sport athletes.
She also plays volleyball in the fall and soccer in the winter."
The team lacked experience before the season, but as it gets more matches played Juelfs early-season apprehension is fading.
"I've been pleasantly surprised.
They get out and work hard.
They're just busting their butts," Juelfs said.
"We're very inexperienced that makes me nervous.
We only had two non-conference matches and that just doesn't give us enough experience before we have conference matches.
Mountain Ridge, before they played us, they already played six or seven matches.
"But, the only way you get experience is by playing a lot.
That's one thing we're going to suffer from is inexperience.
It shows by losing tiebreakers by one or two points or double faulting on game point.
We can only learn it with experience.
"I've been very happy with how they've done so far."
The Bulldogs will be tested again this weekend and really pushed next week.
Today at 3:30 Kingman hosts Deer Valley at Centennial Park.
On Saturday at 11 a.m.
Goldwater will visit.
Then next week Kingman is on the road to Peoria on Wednesday, Goldwater on Friday and Ironwood on Saturday.