By spring, Long coaches the Craig High boys tennis team. By fall, he switches sides to lead the Parker girls tennis team. So right now, Long is a Viking.
But the second-year Parker coach sees the rivalry between the Parker and Craig girls tennis teams as a friendly one. Before taking the head job last season, Long served as a Parker assistant for seven years, three under current Craig coach Bill Peyer.
Though Long, a former Parker player, may have to file for dual-citizenship when it comes to Janesville high school athletics, he’s excited about a Vikings squad that he calls abundant with talent this season.
“We have high expectations for this group, and so do they,” Long said. “The countless hours they have spent on the court the past season will do them a lot of good this season.”
Parker’s trump card this season may well be experience. The Vikings return seven letter winners, all with two or more years of varsity experience. Long said his team’s talent is pretty evenly distributed between singles and doubles.
The No. 1 doubles team of juniors Maddie Theisen and Kristin Zeilinger qualified for the state tournament last season. Senior Kim Amundson and junior Danielle Boyd comprise the No. 2 doubles team, while seniors Melanie Whitescarver and Gretchen Genrich will play at No. 3 doubles.
Three seniors will play at singles, with Emily Sodemann at No. 1, Lauren Brooks at No. 2 and Terri Harmata at No. 4. Talented freshman Becky Harmata breaks up the senior core at the No. 3 singles position.
Though young himself, Long—a 2003 Parker and 2007 UW-Whitewater graduate—feels comfortable having been a Parker assistant for so long.
“I’ve had most of these girls for four years,” he said. “I know what to expect of them, and they know what I expect of them.”
Parker began the season with a 4-1 match record to tie for second at the Craig Invitational on Monday and Tuesday, just behind the Cougars’ 5-0 mark. That’s a likely indication of how close the crosstown rivals will be this season.
“I know they’re playing at a high level right now. But then again, so are we,” Long said.
And nobody knows both Parker and Craig quite like Long.
AUGUST: 19—At Madison East, 4:15 p.m. 20—At Janesville Craig quadrangular (Parker, Janesville Craig, Madison La Follette, Wauwatosa East), 8:30 a.m. 26—At Verona, 4:15 p.m. 28—Parker quadrangular (Parker, Delavan-Darien, Oregon, Sauk Prairie), at Palmer Park, 9 a.m. 31—Sun Prairie, 4:15 p.m.
SEPTEMBER: 2—At Janesville Craig (Palmer Park), 4:15 p.m. 7—Madison La Follette, 4:15 p.m. 9—Madison West, 4:15 p.m. 11—Elkhorn quadrangular, 8 a.m. 14—At Madison Memorial, 4:15 p.m. 16—Middleton, 4:15 p.m. 18—Parker Invitational (Palmer Park) 8 a.m. 21—At Beloit Memorial, 4:15 p.m.
OCTOBER: Big Eight meet, Nielsen Stadium, Madison, 8 a.m.