By Angel Verdejo

The Cove Herald

Copperas Cove tennis has worked depth into its program for years now.

During the spring, the Bulldawgs have a second varsity team, many of whom played JV during the fall.

"It's to help us have people that are ready to step in the lineup," head coach Paul Talbett said.

Cove's depth will be tested this fall. Already underway with a mini-camp this week, the Dawgs go into the team tennis season looking to replace five graduated seniors from a year ago.

But not just any five.

Cove, a regional qualifier in four of the last five years, looks to replace plenty at the top of its lineup. Gone on the girls' side are No. 1 Malika Bembridge and No. 3 Kiera Dieter. Both are spring regional qualifiers, while Bembridge reached state as a freshman.

"You can't replace her," Talbett said of Bembridge. "but I'll tell you what - I think we have a girl (Marisa Rinear) that can play No. 1 that can be pretty close to as successful. Marisa had a great year last year at No. 2 and qualified for regionals in the spring in doubles, so I think she's going to get some confidence."

Rinear leads a experience senior class that includes Sharon White, Dana Torrez, Paola Nunez and Ashleigh Andrews.

Newcomers to add depth are juniors Ewnji Cho and Allison Sprosty.

The experience and chemistry are pluses, but the challenge will be how everyone responds to moving up and playing as a higher seed.

"It's not necessarily someone to replace No. 1, it's just what it does to your ladder," Talbett said. "We're losing No. 1 and No. 3, so the majority of our kids are jumping up two spots from where they played last year.

"It makes for a pretty big jump."

It's the same way on the boys' side, where Cove graduated No. 2-4 (Tim Ortner, Wesley Watts and D.J. Foskey).

Leading the lineup is Eric Juarez, who took over at No. 1 spot last year and was a regional alternate in the spring. The year before, Juarez finished fourth in boys singles at the District 12-5A tournament.

Cameron Wood, Austin Crowe-Byrd, Daniel LeGare and Alex Day join Juarez, as the Dawgs could go 8-10 players deep on both sides.

That depth is an advantage - more options on the court means not everyone having to play singles and doubles during team tennis matches.

"That helps with the heat and not having to play as many matches in one day," said Talbett, whose team opens Thursday at home against Killeen. "If somebody is just playing one or the other, they're not playing four matches in a day. They're just playing two.

"When you have people that can step in the lineup and take somebody out from somewhere else and move them around, you'll have fresher legs. That's why we play all those matches early - to get us ready. To try to get them ready when we get to district."

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