Wildcats open with win against Boyne City

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Gwyn Denbleyker returns a volley during a No. 1 singles tennis match against Boyne City’s Caroline Saubier on Thursday at the APlex in Alpena. Denbleyker blanked Saubier 8-0 and the Wildcats defeated Boyne 7-1 on the day.

The Alpena High girls tennis team couldn’t have asked for a much better way to open its season.

The Wildcats hosted Boyne City on Thursday and came away with a 7-1 victory over the Ramblers.

Alpena has had the luxury of practicing at the APlex and the Wildcats took advantage of the early season opportunity.

“The first day went well. Boyne doesn’t have the opportunity to be inside as often as we do so we were probably a little bit ahead of them and we’ve probably had a few more practices than they have, but it went well,” Alpena coach Charlie Giordano said. “I would have much rather been outside, but I’m also really happy that we were able to be indoors because the cold weather is not fun to play tennis.”

The Wildcats were led by Gwyn Denbleyker who was a state finalist a year ago.

Denbleyker earned a convincing 8-0 victory over Boyne’s Caroline Saubier in No. 1 singles.

Senior Brynna Smith picked up an 8-2 victory over Annie Johnson at No. 2 singles and freshman Maddi Speaks earned an 8-1 win over Maysun King at No. 4 singles.

“Our experience factor is huge this year. Obviously Gwyn went to states last year. With Gwyn, Brynna and Taylor (Belanger) we have strong leadership and they have set the tone with how practices go and what the level of expectation is for everyone,” Giordano said. “Our girls are coming in wanting to play tennis and wanting to be competitive. Our stronger players definitely make this team better because our younger players get to compete against our older and more experienced players so it’s really great to see that level of competitiveness and watch our players and program continue to develop.”

The Wildcats earned a clean sweep in doubles play as the No. 1 doubles team of seniors Taylor Belanger and Mija Pilkaite defeated Boyne’s Amelia McGeorge and Laurel Book 8-3.

Rachel Hart and Arlene Dai picked up an 8-0 win over Natalie Snyder and Brittany Hocquard at No. 2 doubles.

Amelia Berles and Tilly Williams earned an 8-1 win over Gabby Musser and Liv Knitter at No. 3 doubles and juniors Taylor Hansen Bates and Dani Shackmann were victorious by a score of 8-2 over Eden Vrondran and Emily Bergman.

“It’s huge to get off to a good start and build that confidence. It was a great first day with a great group of kids that we have. These girls are motivated, dedicated and they want to play well. These girls are competitive and are more focused on winning. I don’t ever focus on winning, I focus on if you’re a doubles player, here is your job, if you’re a singles player here is your job and if you play well and win, it’s a bonus,” Giordano said. “Early on we play some schools that we are really competitive with and after that it gets a lot tougher so it’s nice to get some wins early and build that confidence and start feeling good.”