Junior Marissa Evenson returns for her second year at No. 2 doubles, where she will be joined by junior Laura White, a move-in from Texas.
Senior Rachel Manfred played with Evenson at No. 2 doubles a season ago, but tore her ACL during soccer season in the fall. Manfred was recently cleared to return to full activities, and Rice expects her to return to the varsity lineup at some point.
“We have very high goals,” Rice added. “We would love to win the MIC on our own because we had to share it last year. We play a very difficult MIC schedule to start. We play all of the favorites right up front, so that means you have to be on point right as you start the season. I can tell you we had a very bad taste in our mouths last year leaving Kokomo after that sectional final. We didn’t play very good tennis in any of the matches in the sectional last year. I think the girls are eager to get back there and prove we’re better than what we showed last year.”
Eastern opens the season tonight at Peru. The Comets’ match with Cass, which was scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed.
Wildkat alum Natalie Rainey had a season to remember in her inagural campaign as head coach, leading Kokomo to an 11-9 record and a sectional title.
“I’m excited to be back for Year 2,” Rainey said. “Things are a lot smoother the second time around. The girls have been working extremely hard. We started hitting in January at the tennis center in Greentown. The kids are excited to be back, and have really set their sights on being able to retain that sectional title. I think they’re pretty focused at this point.”
Kokomo lost three varsity players to graduation, but the sting of those departures has numbed a bit with a pair of foreign-exchange students who will enter the fold.