Fort Dodge boys tennis coach Jared Feddersen doesn't expect any early-season jitters from his program this year.
Feddersen, a former state qualifier himself for the Dodgers, is leaning on a strong stable of seven returning letterwinners. Senior Andrew Stover and junior Brian Murman have reached the state tournament themselves the past two seasons, and are joined by fellow letterwinners Ben Ahlers, Caleb Hendrickson, Rob Leigh, Steve Liao and Nick Pecka.
"We have seven returning letterwinners from last year, which should put us in a good position to start the season," Feddersen said. "They continued to work hard over the summer and winter, playing quite a bit.
Returning letterwinners for the Fort Dodge boys tennis team are, left to right: Brian Murman, Andrew Stover, Caleb Hendrickson, Nick Pecka and Rob Leigh. Not pictured: Steve Liao and Ben Ahlers.
"That experience should help us right out of the gate this spring."
Stover and Murman went 1-2 in state doubles a season ago. They also posted a 1-2 mark the year before at state.
"Murman and Stover have had state tournament experience the past two seasons," Feddersen said, "and I expect that the rest of the team should be able to use their experiences as motivation to hopefully achieve the same level of success."
2014 FORT DODGE BOYS TENNIS
Seniors - Tim Hatton, Andrew Stover, Nick Pecka.
Juniors - Ben Ahlers, Caleb Hendrickson, Spencer Lee, Rob Leigh, Steve Liao, Brian Murman, Brandon Trueblood.
Sophomores - Kevin Chen, Preston Nerhus.
Freshmen - Jon Bowser, Ryan Dolan, Mitchell Emery, Adam Moore, Izzy Quintanna.
April 8 - St. Edmond; 15 - Dowling Catholic; 17 - at Waukee; 19 - at Marshalltown Invitational; 22 - at Des Moines North; 24 - Ankeny; 25 - Carroll Kuemper; 28 - Boone; 29 - at Johnston.
May 1 - at Marshalltown; 6 - Mason City; 8 - Ames; 15 - districts.
Along with the six returning players who all saw plenty of varsity tennis last year, Feddersen is looking to bring a handful of freshmen into the equation.
"We have five freshmen out this year that we are very excited about," he said. "Three of them have had older brothers come through the program and hopefully that sort of familiarity will motivate them to want to carry on the fine tradition of Dodger men's tennis."
That experience and youth has Feddersen feeling excited about what the upcoming season has to offer.
"My expectations are high for this season," he said. "The work these guys have put in the last few years will hopefully be rewarded at a very high level if we continue to improve and play smart, scrappy tennis."
The Dodgers open their season Tuesday against St. Edmond. Both FDSH and the Gaels have found plenty of success on the state level recently, something that has helped light a fire under tennis in the town.
"It's exciting to see that high school tennis is alive and well in Fort Dodge," Feddersen said. "Over the past couple of seasons, this community has seen both Fort Dodge and St. Edmond qualify numerous kids for the state tournament, with a handful of state titles to show for it.
"That sort of tradition is something that we look to build on this year."