The goals set at the beginning of the season for the Green Bay West girls tennis team would sound modest at best for some area programs.
Win two matches. Win 15 individual ones.
It’s time for the Wildcats to set new goals. They already have wins against Shawano and Marinette, and they had surpassed the 15 individual wins entering a meet against Ashwaubenon on Tuesday afternoon.
The win against Shawano was the first for the program since Aug. 25.
“Huge,” said West coach Murray Gleffe, who is in his fourth season with the program. “It meant a lot for the girls. They have put in the time, though. They really have.
“They stay after and work and practice. Some of them don’t break until it gets dark out.”
The players knew it had been a while since West last had a win, but it’s unlikely any of them knew it had been seven years.
Which is why Gleffe made sure to point it out to them. It was the ultimate confidence booster.
“I think it made them feel super inside, to know that they could do it,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, they turned around a week later and beat Marinette 6-1.
“It’s been great.”
Truth is, the Wildcats don’t necessarily have more talent on this team than past ones since the losing streak started. It might actually have less.
But hard work has a way of helping a player overcome flaws on the court. Not only are they staying after practice, but they also are hitting on the weekends and as many as four girls are taking private lessons.
Maybe the talent has been better, but the commitment is at an all-time high.
“Usually when he would say practice is over, everyone would dip out and leave,” said senior Laeren Yates, who is the No. 2 singles player for the Wildcats. “Nobody would be here on the weekends. Nobody would get lessons. Now, everybody is taking it really seriously and they are working in the offseason, too.
“I think it’s a different mentality. We don’t want to be known as the crappy school anymore. We want to be known as we can compete, and if you want to compete, we are ready.”
The Wildcats have gotten at least one win from all seven flights this season. Which means everybody is contributing in some way, from No. 1 singles player Sam Norback and Yates to Gleffe and assistant coach Nathan Jackson.
Players such as Norback and Yates haven’t been playing the sport long, so naturally they have a bigger learning curve than some of their competitors. But they attempt to take something from every win or loss, including a recent match against Notre Dame in which they didn’t win a set.
“It makes you kind of think harder,” said Norback, who also is one of the top players on the basketball team. ” It makes you think how to get your point and make you better at the same time.
“Nobody really put their head down. Everyone went strong until the end.”
The team goals have changed in just a month now that the Wildcats have team and individual wins under their belts.
Now, it’s about finding a way to start playing well in a Fox River Classic Conference that has perennially tough teams such as Green Bay Southwest and Notre Dame.
“After the Marinette match on the road, there were a lot of tears with the parents and the kids,” Gleffe said. “Not only getting the first win, but getting that second win in a year.
“I’m working on more individual wins and just continuing to get better in conference. Trying to really become competitive in conference, not just on weekend invites and nonconference. Just trying to get those scores to really show out.”