BELLEVILLE — Longtime Althoff boys tennis coach Rusty Parker will now be doing double duty as he takes over a young and inexperienced Crusaders girls team in the 2013 season.
Parker, who has led the Althoff boys program to several top three finishes in the competitive South Seven Conference, looks to do the same with the Althoff girl's squad.
The Crusaders, who open their season on Sept. 3 against Waterloo, have 10 players on their roster.
"It's a good number because they will all get a chance to play,'' Parker said. "I was around as an assistant under coach (Laura) Ochoa last year and found the girls to be very enthusiastic and wanting to improve.
"We really have a mix of girls who have played a lot of tennis and those who don't have much experience at all. But as long as they stay positive and keep working to improve, we'll be just fine.
Althoff heads into the season without a clear No. 1 player. Senior Mica Soellner appears to be the frontrunner but is getting pushed hard from a pair of freshmen -- Madelyn Skinner and Emma Melichar.
"We're still going through some challenge matches the next couple of days. I know Mica played the No. 4 singles position for us last year and I'm sure she'll be somewhere in the top three this season,'' Parker said. "But I've been pleased with the two freshmen. You can tell both Madelyn and Emma have played a lot.''
Two other players-- juniors Emily Struckhoff and Kathryn Wuller -- also played on the Crusaders varsity last season and will team with sophomore Allysa DeBourge to round out Althoff's starting line up in singles.
Also competing for a playing time on the varsity team will be senior Crystal Dahm, juniors Amari Fennoy and Karyn Burrell and freshman Emily DeHoyas.
"The top six will play varsity. But the good thing is that when we go to these big invitational tournaments, the others will also go and will have the opportunity to play and show what they can do,'' Parker said.
"Like I said, I think we'll be fine. These girls have great attitudes and they want to have fun, but they also want to work and too continue to improve as the season goes on.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or email@example.com