Long moves over to lead Craig program

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Christopher Heimerman
Friday, April 9, 2010
— Justin Long knows that if tennis is to return to prominence in Janesville, he can’t get too caught up with such frivolous things as colors.

The 2003 Parker High School graduate coached the Viking girls last season, even taking a doubles team to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in his varsity head coaching debut. This season, on the recommendation of longtime Craig boys coach Gary Hallowell and girls coach Camilla Owen, he’s trading in his green and gold for royal blue and white as Craig’s boys coach.

“I was very honored to get both of their recommendations,” Long said. “It was an achievement in and of itself.”

An ambassador for tennis in Janesville, Long represents the city on a Wisconsin tennis board.

“Leaving Parker was a big step for me, and I took on the Craig job as a new opportunity,” Long said. “I’m a Janesville native, and if I can do anything to promote the sport of tennis in Janesville, I’m going to do it. Tennis was huge here at one point.”

Huge is a good way to describe the upside of his 2010 squad. His No. 1 and 2 singles players, juniors Joel Neher and Stewart Winter, return in the same roles they filled last season. Theirs was the most competitive challenge match as Long started from ground zero, giving all his athletes a chance to earn their spots.

“Everybody challenged everybody,” Long said. “I didn’t care whether you played varsity or junior varsity.”

Neher and Stewart, the team’s nominated captains, are intelligent baseline players who will attack the net when play dictates. Their strengths aren’t strictly tangible, though.

“Those two play tennis year-round,” Long said. “They’re more than willing to take on a sort of coach’s role, help out others and even run practices.

They’re joined by three other letter winners. Sophomore Derek Masters will play No. 4 singles, while juniors Mo McCrone and Brandon Stottler move up to No. 1 doubles after being the team’s No. 3 pairing last season.

Foreign exchange student Marvin Wedtland will play No. 3 singles.

Long knows his team’s strength will lie in singles, but he is trying to preach consistency across the board.

“You can hit the ball as hard as you want, but if you can’t get it in, it doesn’t mean anything,” Long said. “We talk a lot about risk/reward and when you should go for high-risk shots.”

While two of the Cougars’ doubles pairings will be new to varsity this season, Long is excited that he’ll have sophomores Cody Lipetri, Zack Hardin and Matt Hayden for three years. Hayden and senior Aaron Fredericks will play No. 2 doubles and Lipetri and Hardin will be the team’s No. 3 pairing.

Long has been playing tennis since age 5 and played in the state tournament for Parker. That gives him immediate credibility with his players. Even if he did it in green and gold.

“I’ve gotten great response, especially from the older kids,” Long said. “We’re all just very eager for the season and to see what we can do.”

The Cougars’ season begins Saturday morning when they host a quadrangular meet.

Craig’s schedule, with varsity meets at Palmer Park: (4:15 p.m. unless indicated)

APRIL: 10—Cougar Quad, 9 a.m. 13—At Sun Prairie. 20—At Beloit Memorial. 27—Madison La Follette. 29—At Madison Memorial.

MAY: 1—Cougar Quad, 9 a.m. 4—Middleton. 6—At Janesville Parker. 8—Watertown Quad, 9 a.m. 11—Madison East. 13—At Madison West. 17—Verona. 22—Big Eight Conference meet, at Nielsen Stadium, Madison.

Last updated: 1:38 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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