KNOB NOSTER — Rachel Ledbetter takes over the Knob Noster girls tennis program and has the Lady Panthers playing a more aggressive style.
A former college player herself, Ledbetter wants Knob Noster players to spend more time up at the net.
“I really want the girls to start being that offensive player,” she said.
Ledbetter wants to coach that style but she said she did not play that way when she was in college.
“I’m kind of taking things that I think I should have worked on, things that I know that I could have done better,” she said. “I’m using what I know I could have done better on and help the kids and moving them in that direction so they can do better than I did.”
Jessie Yates said she would play up at the net some last year, but with it being a point of emphasis this fall, she’s enjoying playing up at the net more.
“At the net you can really angle it and put it where you want it or drop it short where they can’t get it,” she said.
“You have to be in the mindset that ‘I’m going to fight for every point,’” Ledbetter said. “That’s different than ‘I’m going to see what my opponent’s going to do and try to match my opponent.’ How I want the kids to play is, when we go out there on the court, we’re fighting for everything and we’re not trying to match our opponent, we’re trying to do our best.”
Ledbetter steps in for Scott Maple, who left for Warrensburg after leading the Lady Panthers to the district final the past two years. The Lady Panthers were co-Missouri River Valley Conference East champions last fall and took second in the MRVC Tournament, their highest finish in the tournament since the conference expanded to nine teams.
“Coach Maple did an amazing job,” Ledbetter said. “He kept the camps going and he really worked hard. He took a lot of personal time to coach these kids up. He has trained them very well so I’m actually starting at a really good point because these kids have a really good foundation. It’s my job to take them to that next level.”
Junior Alexis Corona is hoping Ledbetter can help her get to that next level of becoming a better singles player and reaching the sectional in 2015 after she had a successful year at No. 2 singles last year.
“She has a lot of college experience and I want to play in college,” Corona said. “She has the advantage of teaching us how she started.”
Yates said she has gotten a lot of pointers from Ledbetter.
“I think I’m going to do better than last year and I’m a more well-rounded player,” Yates said.
Yates said the team as a whole shows a lot of potential.
“We have four coming back who played varsity last year and we have another really committed jv player who is very good in her own way and then we have a couple girls who didn’t get a chance to play much last year, but have some good skill and they will be there for us as a team,” she said.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles