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Girls tennis team enjoying return to courts

Courtesy Photo The 2021 Alpena High girls tennis team includes: back row: Bekah Carlson, Gwynevere DenBleyker, Karlin Decker, Aliccia Carroll, Emilee Spomer, Josie Baker and Amelia Berles; front row: Madi Speaks, Arlene Dai, Tilly Williams, Kalan McConnell and Megan Brown. Missing are Madison Tolan, Addison Burrone, Grace Edgekoski and Olivia Burdinie.

ALPENA — The Alpena High girls tennis team is having fun this season.

Returning to the court for the first time in more than a year, the Wildcats are soaking up the camaraderie, smiling and laughing more, even during drills in chilly April weather.

“It’s incredible to be able to be out there. Even as cold as it was (Wednesday), there were smiles and laughter,” Alpena coach Charlie Giordano said. “They seem to be having more fun, even being out there running drills and conditioning.”

With a roster of 16, Giordano has more than enough players to fill out a roster and a great deal of that roster includes returning players, including the entire singles lineup and top two doubles teams.

Senior Gwyn DenBleyker returns for Alpena at one singles and has her eye on a trip to the state finals. DenBleyker qualified for the finals as a freshman and Giordano said she’s improved her game to give herself another shot at it.

“It’s not just pie in the sky, she’s asked some questions (about the finals) and she’s worked hard,” Giordano said. “She realized it’s tough to be at the top and there’s a lot you have to do well and do it consistently.”

The rest of Alpena’s singles lineup includes juniors Arlene Dai at two singles, Madi Speaks at three singles and Emilee Spomer at four singles.

Alpena’s doubles lineup includes Amelia Berles and Tilly Williams at one doubles, Josie Baker and Bekah Carlson at two doubles and Karlin Decker and Aliccia Carroll at three singles.

Three teams — Grace Edgekoski and Olivia Burdinie, Megan Brown and Kalan McConnell and Addison Burrone and Madison Tolan — will platoon at four doubles so that everyone gets a chance to play.

Though it’s early in the season, the Wildcats have impressed Giordano with their patience on the court and improvement in overall play.

“They’ve done a lot of work, so improvement seems tremendous. But they’re being patient,” Giordano said. “They’re thoughtful in the shot making and thinking through their points.”

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