Published in the March 31, 2017 edition

THE MELROSE High Lady Raider tennis team looks season begins Wednesday against Belmont. (file photo) 

THE MELROSE High Lady Raider tennis team looks season begins Wednesday against Belmont. (file photo)

MELROSE—Mother Nature has been drag for the Melrose High School girls tennis team.

 “The courts are cleared off but not dry just yet. We need to get out there,” reports head coach Deb Deacon about the team’s pre-season workouts.

With opening day just five days away, the Lady Raiders are hoping that some quality hard court time will prepare them for play in the always competitive Middlesex League.

Though the team lost athletes to graduation last year, they return with 17 seniors, including their captains, Julia McLaughlin and Olivia Zibathis. At this point in the season, the team is challenging each other in match play to determine who might qualify for those vacant positions. At press time, Melrose was finalizing a line up in anticipation for their opening match on Wednesday against Belmont.

“Some players have worked hard in the off season on their game,” says the coach. “Once we can get out there to see kids hit the ball, we will know better where we stand. We are an official work in progress.”

One thing is for certain, there are lots of opportunity for players to get in the mix. At first and second singles, look for either Julia McLaughlin or Olivia Ziabatis to fill those spots. Doubles play remains up for grabs as well. “We are hopeful some players will step up and want to play in these two positions and this will be determined by our tennis competition ladder,” says Deacon.

“This is going to be an interesting year for us,” she says. “We play in a competitive league especially when we play some of the ‘big’ schools and teams have year-round players. We are a seasonal team and we look forward to learning and improving and having a few laughs! Although we may be strong in number of veteran players we will be continuing to improve our game and learn to be more aggressive and competitive.”

And while the big schools should be a challenge, expect Melrose to hold its on in the Freedom League. Says Deacon, “We will be competitive, though Burlington should be tough.”

Opening day is April 5 at home against Belmont, a team that will keep Melrose on their toes. “They’re tough to beat. But we will work hard to improve.”