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Golden Racket

Kelly Walsh's Finley Klinger returns the ball to Natrona County's Alexis Holscher during their match in the Golden Racket last year at the Casper Country Club.

The tennis season has already officially begun with the beginning of practice, but moves closer to tangible fruition with the season-opening matches on Saturday. A handful of schools come to Casper Country Club for the tennis jamboree while Rock Springs travels to Jackson for a season-opening match. Those matches lay the groundwork for teams on the five-week journey to the state meet.

Essentially all of those matches will feature a standout that has what it takes for a strong season. Some even have the potential to challenge for a state championship.

In Thursday’s paper, the Star-Tribune looked at a few of the main storylines of the upcoming season. Today features a more in-depth look at a few of the movers and shakers this season.

Boys North Conference

Ethan Kutz, Sheridan: He finished second to the two-time defending state champion in No. 1 singles last season while helping Sheridan into a tie for fourth at the state meet. He stayed busy throughout the off-season and his game’s improved going into his senior campaign. There’s not a lot of expectations for this young Broncs squad but Kutz will be the leader regardless.

Dylan Preator, Powell: This rising senior comes off a state championship season at No. 2 singles. Preator finished 16-3 last year, finishing on a four-match winning streak at the state tournament, and rides the momentum of a comeback win in the championship match into this season. Even if he goes up to No. 1 singles he’ll be one of the last few playing in September.

Austin Robertson, Gillette: As a sophomore he found success in both singles and doubles. He secured a few regular-season victories while playing at No. 2 singles and won the state championship teaming with classmate Jefferson Neary at No. 2 doubles. It’s unknown as of now whether he’ll stay with Neary for the upcoming season or if he’ll stay in the singles court. Either way, he’ll be a tough out in any match.

Boys South Conference

Brendan Lock, Cheyenne South: The two-time defending champion and three-time state championship finalist returns to the court for his senior season with the Bison. He also carries a 40-match winning streak into the season. So any challenger that wants to take him down also has to contend with history. He could cement his legacy as a Wyoming tennis legend this season.

Ryan Stampfli, Cheyenne Central: He was one set away from winning the state championship after winning the first set 6-2 before wheels came off. The rising senior enters the season fresh off winning the Junior Governor’s Cup just a few days ago and winning the District Cup earlier this summer. Will he move up to No. 1 singles or seek that No. 2 singles gold he just missed out on?

Kyle Moore, Laramie: A bit of bad luck and a disappointing semifinal sidetracked Moore’s quest for a state championship last season. The Plainsmen’s rising senior will likely return to his spot in No. 1 singles after going 15-4 as a junior. Two of those losses (one in the regular season and one in regionals) came to South’s Lock. The competition’s tough but he could be primed for a breakthrough.

Girls North Conference

Finley Klinger, Kelly Walsh: The freshman went undefeated throughout the season right up until the state semifinals. She then composed herself and won the consolation championship. The rising sophomore should return stronger this season and with a legitimate chance to win the championship at No. 1 singles.

Teagan Thompson, Cody: She finished second in No. 2 singles last year, just one match shy of repeating as that division’s state champion. With the Fillies’ singles leader having graduated, Thompson could move up to No. 1 singles and into a highly competitive field. Even if she does, she’ll likely be one of the last ones standing.

Hyla Chatham, Jackson: No. 1 singles was no joke last year and Chatham held her own as a sophomore. Her season ended in the consolation semifinals and with a 12-7 record overall. She returns to the court as a junior this season having cut her teeth with multiple tournaments over the summer. Don’t be surprised if she makes the next leap in her career this season.

Girls South Conference

Emily Needham, Cheyenne Central: The reigning champion at No. 2 singles could make the leap this season as Central shuffles its lineup in hopes of winning yet another state title. After all, Needham ran the table last season and went on to win the District Cup this summer, building even more momentum for this campaign. She’ll be a title contender if she stays at No. 2 or moves up to No. 1.

Sydney Beutel, Green River: Half of the No. 2 doubles team that finished second last year, Beutel returns this season with another chance at gold. Her partner last year graduated, so it’ll be interesting to see who she gets paired with or if the Wolves will let the rising senior stand out on her own at No. 1 singles. Either way, she could find herself back in the finals this year.

Rachel Schuler, Rock Springs: This rising senior could be the darkhorse of the conference. She played last season on the Tigers’ No. 1 doubles team, but as the only returning member of that team, she could break into her own at either singles division. Her 8-7 record may not be impressive but the Tigers finished strong and she carries confidence into this season.

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @BradyOltmans

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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