This spring is all about growth for the Hillsboro girls tennis team.

The great thing is that numbers are strong. Coach Rick Karlin said about two dozen girls have turned out this season compared with about 13 or 14 a year ago, and among that group are eight returners.

But many of the Spartans are pretty new to tennis, so Karlin expects this year to be about progress, not necessarily competition.

“It’s going to be kind of a learning year for most of the girls,” Karlin noted. “So many of them are just starting to pick up a racket and play. I think it’s going to be a year of good growth though. There’s some that show some good potential.”

On the singles side, Karlin expects for junior Alicia Hernandez and Mai Ninomiya, an exchange student from Japan, to battle for the No. 1 spot. Ninomiya is one of several exchange students on the squad, something Karlin said tends to be a pretty regular occurrence for the team.

“They played a pretty tight match to see who was going to play (No.) 1 this week, and so we’ll have them play a couple more times to see if one leapfrogs the other,” Karlin said.

Senior Erin Schapiro is likely to get pegged in at the third or fourth singles position.

During Monday’s home match against Liberty, Dominique Woodland and Mary Engish played in the top doubles spot.

Also playing doubles were Ranga Duvvuri and Bethel Amare, who each have a couple of years of tennis under their belts and held down the second spot. And Karlin was enthused about Kimberly Lemus, a tennis neophyte whom he said is demonstrating “some good potential.” She played fourth doubles with Chiara Konemann on Monday.

Players like Lemus could come a long way in a couple months. And that is what Karlin is looking for.

Said Karlin: “It will be interesting to see what kind of growth they make over the year.”

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