Prairie Ridge moves to the Fox Division this season in girls tennis but continues to be the team to beat in the Fox Valley Conference.
The Wolves lost some top players to graduation but return two state qualifiers from last season in Natalie Favia (singles) and Mikaela McNally (doubles) and FVC No. 3 singles champion Annie Timm.
In addition, Prairie Ridge has added newcomers Morgan Priesz, a freshman, and junior Jenna VanBosch.
"We have a really large junior class," Wolves' coach Jim Benson said. "They have really filled the void of the players we lost last year."
Where everyone ends up in the lineup is still a work in progress. McNally, Favia and Timm will all be vying for the top singles spot and Benson also needs to find a No. 1 doubles team. Favia qualified for state in doubles her freshman and sophomore seasons and McNally went last year in doubles.
With just a few positions open and a host of talented players, practices have been intense.
"I really only have five positions open," Benson said. "It makes for a highly competitive practice."
While the division title won't be at stake in crossover matches against Valley Division teams, Benson said won't be any less important or competitive this season.
"I look forward to joining the Fox and competing with the Fox teams," Benson said. "We're looking forward to the (FVC) tournament."
Timm said her goal, like the others, is No. 1 singles but her freshman season taught her the importance of every position in the lineup. A point at No. 4 doubles counts the same as one at No. 1 singles.
"I learned to be a team player," Timm said. "My matches are for the team."
A year in the classroom and on the courts gives Timm a more established feeling on the team this season.
"I feel more comfortable in school and in tennis," Timm said. "I feel I'm more of a leader on the team."
No. 1 singles should be highly competitive this season in the FVC with Woodstock's Ana Fedmasu, Jacobs' Ashley Kosy and Hampshire's Hannah Hougland in addition to Prairie Ridge.
Whip-Purs' coach Bill Jepsen said Hougland has made great strides coming into this season and should be ready to compete at a high level. Among the things he sees improvement on include better court coverage, speed and recovery.
"She just continues to progress steadily," Jepsen said. "She’s hitting a little bigger ball."
Kosy, a junior, comes in as a two-time sectional champion and Golden Eagles' coach Jon Betts said she could have a breakout season.
"I think [Kosy is) coming in as one of the players to beat," Betts said. "She has the talent to do incredibly well."
With the Wolves in the Fox, Jacobs is the preseason favorite in the Valley. Betts said that they would be honored if they could win the Valley but admitted it would feel a little hollow if they couldn't beat Prairie Ridge in their crossover match.
"I know what it means," Betts said. "If we're going to win conference we have to beat every team."