New Tokay High girls tennis coach Mark Hochhalter had only half of his players at Thursday’s practice.

Twelve players — six singles and three doubles’ teams — are needed to play a match. But there’s nothing to worry about for Hochhalter.

There are 16 girls who signed up to play tennis this fall season, Hochhalter said. A mixture of girls who have not had their physicals conducted, paper work cleared, finishing homework and battling illness are the reasons why only half of the team was present on Thursday.

“We do have a lot of new beginners,” Hochhalter said. “I think they all look at the first week as being a temporary thing.”

Hochhalter, who coached the Tokay High boys tennis team last spring to a 2-8 record in the Tri-City Athletic League, is the third Tokay girls tennis coach in the last four seasons. Prior to arriving at Tokay, he coached in the Lincoln High boys and girls tennis at the last three seasons. He also been playing tennis for 30 years.

Some of the six were present at Thursday’s practices; senior Stephanie Sandoval and sophomore Maddy Lozano. Sandoval is a doubles’ player and Lozano singles.

“I want to see how they do up and down the ladder,” Hochhalter said. “The top six will be the singles, and (Nos.) 7-12 is the doubles.”

Hochhalter talked to the players on Thursday about areas that they will be working in upcoming practices.

“We need to improve on technique,” Hochhalter said. “The four basic things that we need to work on is the forehand, the backhand, the volley and serve.”

This season, Hochhalter plans to have his squad play non-league matches before TCAL action begins on Sept. 12. The 2018 Tokay team didn’t play any matches before the start of league play, and finished winless in league play. He’s been in touch with schools in the San Joaquin Athletic Association, Valley Oak League and plans to contact one or some Sacramento schools.

“The key here is I need to know what is appropriate of schools to play,” Hochhalter said. “There are many different levels out there; some that may (play within their school) districts, and teams that maybe a little bit above us.”

Hochhalter is already setting team goals for the Tigers.

“My prediction is that we will be somewhere mid-range,” Hochhalter said. “By next year, I want us to go further up.”

Four days into practices, Hochhalter likes the girls’ approach when they step onto the courts.

“What I love about this team is the exuberance and the energy and the amount of people we have out here,” Hochhalter said. “All of that and we make our own competition and we’ll get better.”

Hochhalter feels the girls will find that playing tennis could have its rewards after they graduate from Tokay High and beyond.

“It’s such a good sport that you can play into your 60s, 70s and 80s,” Hochhalter said. “I play a lot at Oak Park in Stockton. That is one area that I know even people that live in Lodi go there to play tennis through their life.”

Contact Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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