Helias tennis still looking to begin play in 2013

Helias senior Zack Yungbluth returns for the Crusaders’ tennis team this season.

Helias senior Zack Yungbluth returns for the Crusaders’ tennis team this season. Photo by News Tribune.

It’s been said good things come to those who wait. But what about those who wait, and wait, and wait, and wait?

The Helias boys tennis team knew it would be one of the last sports squads in the area to get going this year, as the Crusaders’ season opener wasn’t originally slated to happen until today.

But after Sunday’s snowstorm, the Crusaders’ kickoff dual match with Fulton is on hold indefinitely.

If the Crusaders and Hornets can get a reschedule date agreed upon, the match could be held this week. But if they can’t, Helias may not get to get things started until playing at Hickman a week from today.

“I’m just hoping we can get some matches in,” said Margaret Shimkus, who is in her first year as head coach of the team. “I’m anxious to see the guys on a competitive level when they get out there, how they react to some pressure.”

With the first few weeks of practice being slowed by snow and other assorted bad weather, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Crusaders.

“That first week was horrendous,” Shimkus said. “Then we had a couple nice days and I kept the guys the full length (of practice), because I was like, ‘We’re going to need to take this opportunity.’ ... The first day we went over, a lot of the boys were like, ‘It feels so good just to hit the ball.’”

The extra preseason preparation time was handy for the players to get to know Shimkus, who has been the girls assistant coach the past five seasons and has also been a track coach at the school. She said the transition has been easy so far.

“The guys seem like they’re having fun,” she said. “We have a few goals, and first off, it’s improve and have fun. The next part is try to win some matches. But if they’re improving, the second part should follow.”

Helping Shimkus achieve that improvement is her assistant coach, Rick Baer, and the players themselves.

“The other kids out there, when they see a kid doing something wrong, they try to help and they’re genuine about that,” Shimkus said. “And (Baer) helps out by getting on one side of the net and working on technique, which seems to be his strong suit, and then I’ll work more with the varsity.”

And there’s plenty of work to be done, as the 12-man roster is evenly split between those with experience and those without.

“The guys who have come back are good leaders and very helpful,” Shimkus said.

Three of those returnees have varsity experience, led by this year’s No. 1 singles player, junior Kirk Twehous. The others are senior Zack Yungbluth and junior Caleb Seidel.

Other returnees are juniors Adam Bexten and Jeremy Wolters and sophomore Ethan Lesko.

“The one who has improved an awful lot is Ethan Lesko — he was playing 10 and 11 last year, but he’s up to No. 3 now,” Shimkus said. “None of this is set in stone, as some of these guys may bounce around as they get back to playing a lot. But Ethan has been one of the guys who’s put in a lot of time.”

Other squad members include juniors Diego Ballesteros, David Huber and Braden Toebben; sophomore Nick Hafner; and freshmen T.J. Hagenhoff and Ryan Pollock.

“They’re all coming around, they seem to have a lot of fun,” Shimkus said. “They like to hang out with each other, there are no conflicts, they have good chemistry.

“... Tennis is a quote/unquote individual sport, but they’re working well together.”

The most obvious place where the players can work together is in doubles, which is good since Shimkus is still auditioning teams.

“We’re still trying to see who works well together,” she said.

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