Chris Allen, head coach, said the boys team is still young, but this year's edition includes many of the same faces from a year ago who learned a lot about tennis the hard way -- on the losing end of their matches.
He said the girls tennis team has a solid core of returnees and will look for new starters who play winning tennis consistently.
Cass boys tennis
Allen hopes last year's lessons pay dividends this year for the boys team.
Cass, which finished last season with a 5-10 overall record and 0-6 region record, was a team "in transition," he said.
"Not taking away anything from our region," Allen said, "but we just weren't as prepared as we could have been."
He said the team walked away from that season with a determination to give more effort.
"We made a new commitment to tennis," he said. "We spent more time in practice and in the offseason to provide opportunities for success. We're going to fight like mad. We won just five games last year and we're looking to be a lot more competitive in our region."
Allen said Cass tennis isn't improved just through the efforts of the school's coaching staff and tennis team.
"Through the help of community," he said, "people have been able to guide our players in a positive direction. I'm very excited about our record [3-0] so far this season, and we want them to play as well as they can.
"Our attitude is we are the same players but we're not the same team, even though we have the same players at almost every line."
He said last year's experiences and the offseason have helped the players grow emotionally, physically and in maturity: "I very much expect them to be competitive this season."
Allen said a lot of familiar faces are representing the school this season.
"We're returning Jake Barnette, Jeremy Coone Joey Johnson, Daniel Smith, Kaleb McBrayer and Sean Lipinski," he said. "Brad Delee has come up from JV to join the varsity. We've added freshman Matt Moore as well."
He said Barnette has a lot of skills in his third year in the program.
"Jake has an amazing forehand and is smart on the court," the coach said. "He has a great-looking backhand and he knows where he wants to put the ball."
Coone, a sophomore, he said, is in his second year. "Jeremy has really worked hard on his shots, his mental toughness, his ability and conditioning. He's very intimidating at 6 feet 4 inches."
He said Coone has already come from behind to win matches this year, an area in which he struggled last season. "He is not the same player he was last year."
The coach said Johnson brings a ton of athleticism and effort: "He really is impressive. He doesn't give up on any ball and is strong and very smart about the game. He is athletic, coachable and smart -- three wonderful traits any coach would gladly take."
Daniel Smith is the lone senior on the team, and he and Barnette are the Cass captains.
"This is Daniel's third year in doubles," Allen said. "I don't know [if] there's a nicer kid than he is, but he's one of those who hates to lose. I think the top performers hate losing more than they love winning."
The coach said Smith is a student of the game and a "great example" for young tennis players.
"He's worked so hard for us and is an example of the attitude and effort level we need from everyone," he said.
Allen said Smith's doubles partner is Moore.
"Matt is a great tennis player," the coach said. "He hasn't been playing long, but he has really picked it up since the beginning of summer. He's really going to be a bright spot in our future."
Sean Lipinski, Kaleb McBrayer and Brad Delee round out the roster.
"Each of our players brings something different to the court," he said. "They have a combination of athleticism, power and determination that hopefully will translate into victories during the season.
"One common word for our boys team is they are hungry for victory. It's been five years since the boys have been in the state playoffs. We talk about it, which is why we are constantly reminding ourselves and talking about where we want to be this year.
"Every single one of them buys into what it takes to be successful."
Cass girls tennis
The Cass girls tennis team will lose some of the key players who boosted it to a 16-6 record (6-3 in Region 7-AAAA) last season, and its season will be determined by how their replacements play.
Coach Allen said last year's edition made it to the second round of the state playoffs before falling to Starr's Mill, and this one wants to make its mark, too.
"Obviously our goal is to make it back to the state tournament," he said, adding this year is bringing a lot of changes to the Lady Colonels.
"We are in a brand new region and we lost the heart and soul of our team with the graduation of Megan Phillips," he said. "She gave us four years as a starter and her leadership contributed to its jelling and becoming what it was."
Gone also are Mitzi Johnson and Haley Hood.
"We are starting new people at three lines," he said.
He said senior Tara Mathis has experience as do the doubles team of Emily Heater and Ally Prewett.
"Tara is a four-year starter," he said. "She has been thrust into the role as our No. 1 singles player. She's probably one of most athletic tennis players I've seen in a long, long time. She has a great forehand, an amazing serve and she wants to play at the next level.
"She went undefeated in postseason last year and brings that extra experience of playing in the high pressure matches."
He said Cass also has experience at the No. 1 doubles line: "Emily and Ally are returning for their third year -- second year as partners. They give us a great example of how doubles is played. They communicate on the court, knowing their partner's strengths and weaknesses. A lot of times they communicate nonverbally. That's something that only comes from playing a lot of matches together and enjoying playing together."
Stepping up for Cass this season will be Lauren Simonson, a junior and first-year starter.
"Lauren started playing last year," Allen said, "and she has taken a lot of lessons and spent a lot of time in the off season to become a good player. She participated in just about anything we put on, whether it was conditioning or practice. She was usually the first player to show up and the last to leave."
Cass also is turning to Hannah Howard and Madison King. "They both have played singles for us, and they both bring a consistency, an intensity that's always important [but] they're young and haven't played a lot of high school tennis. They are definitely a great addition to the program."
Also at doubles are Hannah Delia, a former JV player, and Breanna Summers. "They both have the athleticism required and they're brand new partners who are learning how to get the job done in doubles play," Allen said, adding Hannah Dunlap and Christina Monroe can play either singles or doubles.
Different combinations are planned as coaches look to build a stronger team.
"We want players who understand their role on team, and from week to week they may not be a starter. They may get beat out by someone else, someone may be sick or on vacation," he said. "Their role on team is to support the team and we stress looking at the bigger picture: If you don't play but we win, then we've all contributed to the win."
"Our goal is the same and we have a good core," he said. "We're trying to figure out who's going to step up and win the points for us. Everyone can lose or win on any given day. We're looking for consistency."
Allen credited the community with helping players in the offseason and summer.
"It's not just Cass but a lot of people who want to see our success," he said. "The success we've had with our girls program has drawn a lot of people who have helped support it, and that's helped our boys teams as well."
He said one thing that should help this year's edition of the Lady Colonels is the amount of experience it has gotten on the courts.
"We played 22 matches last year and 16 the year before," he said. "Each year we advance to the state tournament it puts more matches under our belt.
"Our returning girls understand high-stress matches," he said. "We don't have to worry about their commitment."