The best way to approach it is to merely adapt the best you can.
For Athena Pitsavas, a senior on the Northfield girls tennis team, and Libby Brust, a junior, preparing for the season’s first match eight days after the Raiders started practice Monday is a matter of leaning on experience from past years and remaining flexible.
“The first year was definitely — coming into it and having our first match the second week (of practice) was crazy to me, but now we’ve gotten used to it,” Pitsavas said. “We just do what we can and kind of improvise.”
That first competition is the morning of Aug. 20 at Owatonna in a triangular that also includes Faribault.
For Northfield, Pitsavas and Brust represent the two largest pieces of experience returning from a team that’s coping with the graduation of its top two singles players (Abby Borene and Lauren Weber) and its top doubles team (Laura Gates and Anna Weber).
Pitsavas and Brust played primarily in the No. 3 and No. 4 singles positions last year, although both did pick up handfuls of experience in the top two positions and Brust was named all-conference honorable mention last year.
“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” Brust said of the quick start to the season. “You just get right back into it.”
Last year, the Raiders finished fifth in the 12-team Big 9 Conference and dropped a 4-3 match in the first round of the Section 1AA tournament against Farmington.
In addition to this year’s upward trajectory in the lineup, Pitsavas and Brust will grapple with their expanded leadership roles.
“It’s definitely a transition and a journey through the team,” Pitsavas said. “It’s fun to have been a part of it since eighth grade for Libby and ninth grade for me. Just to have been a part of it those years and now you’ve reached the point of leadership, so it’s fun.”
That extra burden is eased by the culture of the team through the past several seasons, in which a number of players have joined the team primarily for the welcoming and entertaining atmosphere that runs alongside the tennis itself.
This season, that’s brought out a number of freshman, who are now the responsibility of Pitsavas and Brust. Based on the classes before them, though, the pair should have little trouble bringing that group into the fold while still producing a solid level of play on the court.
“We have a lot of freshmen, so there’s a lot of room for improvement, and looking toward future years, that’ll be really good for the team,” Pitsavas said.