Storm Lake High boys tennis coach Ron Netten is banking on Gung as he begins his 23rd season as head coach.
Gung, as in senior Chandivone Southiphong, who is the top returning Tornado from last year's squad and just might hold claim to the team's best nickname.
"Chandivone is looking OK so far," Netten said. "He's probably going to be competing for the top singles player in the (Lakes) conference. Matt Bowman and Eric Stephas have made a lot of improvement."
Southiphong is a two-year state participant in doubles who played No. 2 singles last season and is joined by three teammates who were in the top seven last year.
Practice had just begun three days ago when Netten spoke, but already he was looking at senior Bowman as a potential No. 2, junior Jeremy Boese at No. 3, junior Stephas at No. 4, junior Cory Nelson at No. 5 and senior Nels Fymbo at No. 6.
The coach mentioned nothing was cemented, and that all the kids had a little rust to shake off.
"The kids don't really have a place to play over the winter around here. They have to go quite a ways or know someone at the college to play," he said.
Last season the Tornadoes finished 3-8 overall, with a 2-8 Lakes Conference mark that placed them fifth out of six teams. In the conference tournament, however, they finished second, and they're looking to carry that momentum into another season chock full of tough competition.
"Spencer will be the team to beat," Netten said of the team his club tied at the league tourney last season, finishing only behind LeMars.
Southiphong had the most wins last year among returnees; he went 5-6 in singles play, 12-2 in doubles. Bowman, a captain along with Southiphong, was 2-9 in singles (at No. 4), 3-9 in doubles. Boese (last year's No. 6) was 5-6, 1-7.
This year's team is without Vinny Saengchanpheng, who graduated last season and held a career singles mark of 28-12, and a doubles record of 40-14. He was Southiphong's partner in crime in doubles action.
"As a team, a key will be how last year's JV steps up," said Netten whose roster has increased from 22 last year to 29, and who is aided by third-year assistant Andy Kuker.
"There's a lof of enthusiasm so far; the kids have good attitudes and they want to learn. They've been working hard, and even though we're a little short on experience, I think we'll be competitive. I think we'll be in the middle of the pack for sure."
Good basic strokes and a willingness to work and learn are the Tornadoes' strengths this season, in addition to leadership and camaraderie.
At the same time, they'll have to raise their level of play if they want to compete in an always tough league.
"Our quickness and speed are average, and inexperience and mental toughness are areas to work on," Netten said. "Our serving might be a little rusty, but we just started. We just need to get more matches. Getting more experience will be critical. Tennis season is so short, so just being able to get outside and have good weather and get some good practice time in will be crucial."
Storm Lake starts out the season April 10 at Estherville-Lincoln Central, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Seniors: Jack Bedel, Danny Bounsavath, Matt Bowman, Nels Fymbo, Chandavone Southiphong
Juniors: Jeremy Boese, Matt Drew, Will Hansen, Jacob Lyon, Keegan Morgan, Jesse Munger, Keaton Murphy, Cory Nelsen, Collin Schultz, Eric Stephas, Andy Storm, Geoff Ullerich
Sophomores: Taylor Anderson, Jason Mountysayalath
Freshmen: Kyle Coyle, Peter Douglas, Eugene Hutchinson, Paul Inthakone, Jesse Kavan, Sheldon Lovan, Tommy Nasirichampang, Alex Phanthavong, Ricky Soumetho, Vista Souvandy
April 10: At Estherville, 4:30 p.m.
April 12: Vs. LeMars, 4:30 p.m.
April 16: At Spirit Lake, 4:30 p.m.
April 17: At Spencer, 4:30 p.m.
April 20: At Carroll Kuemper, 4 p.m.
April 23: At Cherokee, 4:30 p.m.
April 26: Vs. Estherville, 4:30 p.m.
April 28: Lakes Conference at Estherville, 9 a.m.
April 30: Vs. LeMars, 4:30 p.m.
May 3: Vs. Spirit Lake, 4:30 p.m.
May 7: Vs. Spencer, 4:30 p.m.
May 10: Districts, TBA
May 12: Team Districts, TBA
May 19: Team Substate, TBA
May 25-26, Team State, TBA