The good news for the 2017 Mexico girls tennis team is they return a total of 15 athletes from a season ago.

The bad news is Marshall has been quite a force in the North Central Missouri Conference in recent years, meaning the Lady Bulldogs know exactly who they have to go through if they have any hope of winning the league title.

"We graduated our number one singles player, so there is a huge opportunity for someone who will move into that position this year. Throughout the next few weeks, we will be playing our challenge matches to find out where everyone fits in the ladder," said head coach Kim Costley. "Marshal has set the bar very high for the rest of the conference."

The individuals most likely to vie for that spot are the eight out of 12 varsity athletes that returning. This includes juniors Grace Wortman, who recently won the 18U Female division at the Show-Me-Games, Hannah Rogers and Elayna Samm and seniors Sophie McKeown and Julie Rothermich.

"We have several seasoned players this year. We want to improve as a team on our serves, specialty shots and strategy," Costley said. "We have some great leadership in our returners. Becca Kristofferson and Elayna Samm are positive and encouraging as we work hard in practice and Julie Rothermich leads by example in every drill on every rep."

The other give-and-take for this program in 2017 is Co-Head Coach Katrina Dukes has stepped away. Fortunately, the Lady Bulldogs didn't lose any talent for reasons other than graduation, allowing Costley a real chance at leading this team to a better NCMC finish after placing third in 2016 with a record of 7-5-1 overall.

"It was the most successful season the program has had in many years. Coach Katrina Dukes did a fantastic job of bringing interest back to the program over the past three years," said Costley. "We graduated four varsity players from last year. It'll be exciting to see who steps up to fill those positions. We have 24 girls this year. Nine of them are brand new to the sport, five freshmen, three sophomores and one junior. I'm excited to have them. They are working hard and getting better every day."