While several Sioux Falls schools are entrenched in a battle for a state boys tennis title, another metro squad — Sioux Falls Christian — is taking important first steps as a first-year program.
Steadily growing interest over the years culminated with the formation of an official team before the season, with Kevin Plank — the head tennis professional at Country Club of Sioux Falls — taking the helm as head coach.
The team’s first year featured a truncated varsity schedule with six matches in addition to a solid amount of junior varsity exposure. On Thursday in Sioux Falls, the squad got its first taste of state tournament competition.
“Our goal is really to gain experience and just increase our level of play. Every day we get better,” Plank said. “To have the experience of playing in a state tournament with this quality of matches, we’d like to come out of it feling like we improved from the first day to the second day and carry that to next year.”
While the Chargers didn’t make a day one splash in terms of wins, Plank can see things starting to take shape.
“For the matches that I saw it was the best we played all year,” Plank said. “I think they feel good and are excited about their improvement, but there’s also frustration of coming along and wanting to get those wins.”
Plank’s squad isn’t getting ahead of itself, though, preferring realistic expectations over illusions of immediate success.
“It’s helped us out with the matches we’ve had that we weren’t thrown into the fire with varsity,” said sophomore Logan Aukes, who competes in No. 2 singles for the Chargers. “Our goal this weekend isn’t to necessarily go win the whole thing, but to go in, have fun and learn from the experience.”
As for next season, Plank envisions further strides for the program, including more varsity exposure.
“I’ve been working with [activities director] Jim Groen to work in more varsity matches,” Plank said. “Some schools already have their schedules set, so there might be more JV matches as well.”
With enough time, the Chargers might stake their own claim as a tennis power in the city. For now, they’re content with building upon something new.
“I’m looking forward to the rest to the state tournament and especially next year being able to make even more improvements,” Aukes said.