Wood takes over M-CHS tennis

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 10:19 PM
Journal/Sam Green
New tennis coach, Dan Wood, oversees the Montezuma-Cortez High School girls team practice Tuesday afternoon at Parque de Vida.

Former assistant coach Dan Wood has taken the reins of head coach of the Montezuma-Cortez High School tennis teams.

Wood succeeds former coach Jim Taccogno and will start by taking over the Lady Panthers team this season.

“I’m loving tennis. I was a little bit worried that it would be too much, but since I’m retired and because these are wonderful young athletes, I go to sleep feeling enthusiastic and thinking this is going to be a good day,” Wood said.

The M-CHS girls tennis team struggled last year, but plenty of experience returns and plenty of new faces will grace the Jim Harkendorff courts this year. At least 30 athletes have turned out for the team and Wood wants at least 11 to dress varsity (eight doubles players and three singles players).

“That’s going to be a challenge. My goal is to have everybody play that wants to,” Wood said about his roster. “I’m hoping to always keep 22 players actively involved.”

There will also be junior varsity matches this season. If schools can’t field JV teams, Wood will have his JV girls scrimmage against one another.

Of the returning varsity experience are junior Abbi Pickens, who moves from doubles to No. 1 singles, senior Andi Pickens who will be No. 1 doubles with fellow senior Jessica Gonzalez, senior Brie O’Dell moves from doubles to No. 2 singles, junior Raena Concklin and senior Roni Shaner will be No. 2 doubles, and junior Jordan Valdez, sophomore Sadee Threlkheld, sophomore Breck Grubbs and junior Victoria Stanley return for doubles play.

“(No.) 1 singles is a big jump because I was (No.) 1 doubles last year,” Abbi Pickens said. “My freshman year was figuring out the game. Last year was getting skills and this year I’m figuring out where I’m suppose to move on the court. I hope I can live up to his (Wood’s) expectations.”

The new head coach will rely on Abbi Pickens for team leadership this season.

“Abbi Pickens is a really strong junior. She’s the first one here and the last one to leave,” said Wood. “She communicates well. She’s definitely a leader.”

Wood welcomes the additions of Val Pickens and Steve Cathey to his coaching staff. Cathey coached on the boys tennis staff last season as well.

“I think between the three of us, we’ve got a great setup. We’re having a good time and people are enjoying what’s going on,” Wood said about his staff. “I’ve already met my first goal. Which is people having a good time and learning something.”

Official practices began Monday and the Lady Panthers quickly step into season action by hosting Miyamura High School out of Gallup, N.M., on Saturday morning at the Harkendorff Tennis Courts.

“I’m really looking forward to it. They’re in their third season and I think it will be a competitive match,” Wood said about the match with the Patriots. “It will be a good start for us to set up the varsity and junior varsity players. Then we got two weeks after that to get ready for the major part of the season and figure out who’s playing where.”

M-CHS will be on the road until April 29, after Saturday’s match. The Lady Panthers will have nonconference matches at Delta, Paonia, Cedaredge, Glenwood Springs and a tournament in Delta during that time frame. M-CHS will also be at 5A/4A Southwestern League foes Durango, Grand Junction and Grand Junction Central before coming home to face Fruita Monument, Montrose and a nonleague match with Aspen.

“I think this years is going to be really great,” Abbi Pickens said. “We have a lot more girls than we’ve ever had out since I’ve been playing. We need to practice at a 100 percent. We don’t need to be messing around as much as we did last year. I think we need to take it more seriously. I think we can do it. The girls need to have more drive to play.”

Reach Bobby Abplanalp at