Patriot girls try to sort lineup

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Heritage Hills senior Avery Neff gets ready to return a shot Wednesday in practice. The Patriots will be relying on their upperclassmen this tennis season, and Neff figures to factor into the equation in some way.


LINCOLN CITY — For the second spring in a row, local girls tennis players are dealing with some complications. Last year, it was the COVID-19 pandemic shutting spring sports down. This year, they’ve gotten their opportunities, only to see them limited by the weather.

Heritage Hills is in the same boat as everybody else, and Patriots girls tennis coach Dave Jochim told the Herald during Wednesday’s practice that they’ve gotten some, but not a lot of challenge matches in. So, the Pats are having to contend with the weather, while having a lot of questions to answer by the April 5 season opener against Wood Memorial.

“I got maybe three or four girls that could play singles, but I don’t have a true singles player right now, I really don’t,” Jochim said in a March 10 phone conversation. “I have some girls that work hard, that compete, but the skill level that they have compared to some of the other girls aren’t quite there.

“But they’ll go out there, and they’ll do whatever I ask them — they’ll work their fannies off, and they’ll do the best they can, that’s all I can ask,” he continued.

Heritage Hills will need to find out who goes where, as the Pats graduated No. 1 singles player Carly Sabelhaus in 2019. Sabelhaus made it onto the All-Pocket Athletic Conference Team as a senior — when she made it to the individual regional tournament.

Jochim listed Avery Neff, Emily Patmore and Braili Schipp as seniors who can play singles. He also mentioned juniors Liz Gehhausen and Kennedy Tate who could be singles competitors for him.

“Of course Avery’s played soccer, basketball, so I mean, she’s a competitor — she’s quick,” Jochim said. “She gives everything she has — she won’t leave anything out on the court. Liz Gehlhausen is analytical, she’s a smart kid, she’ll do whatever you ask her. She won’t quit until the last point’s played.

“Kennedy Tate’s the same way — she’s played soccer,” he added. “…She can run some balls down, she’s just a competitor. Basically, those three are probably the top three as far as singles, but there’s no guarantee that they’re going to play singles.”

Jochim said that Mehling is “definitely” going to be playing doubles — citing her height and long arms. He added that junior Kiersten Gogel “probably” will play doubles, while mentioning the possibility that Schipp could be a doubles player, too. Jochim also said Patmore will probably play doubles if she doesn’t play singles.

The Pats don’t have any sophomores on the roster that Jochim texted to the Herald on Wednesday. Heritage Hills does have three freshmen, but Jochim said they will be playing junior varsity this year.

Heritage Hills finished 2-6 in conference play two years ago — seventh place out of nine teams, and now, the Pats will have to contend with an expanded PAC that has 13 total teams.

The Pats will see a lot of conference action early on in the season, as four of their first six matches are against PAC foes, and they’ll be seeing seven conference rivals in April to begin.

Their schedule as a whole will be busy — as they’re set to begin the season playing matches on four straight days from April 5-8.

“We’ll be alright, we face this every year,” Jochim said. “So, we’ll be fine.”

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