Two years ago, a huge class of 15 freshmen girls started out with Liberty girls tennis coach Dan Snyder.

Those players are now juniors, and 14 of them have stuck around, helping bolster a Falcons squad that possesses experience, heart and talent.

While that sizeable group makes up almost 60 percent of the Falcons’ 25-player roster, the top spot on the team actually belongs to a sophomore.

Marissa Nichols made an immediate splash in the league last season as a freshman. She advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Northwest Oregon Conference district tournament, where she lost a three-set match. A win would have advanced her to the Class 5A state tournament.

After such a near miss in 2013, she has big plans for her sophomore season, according to Snyder.

“She wants to win districts this year,” Snyder said. “That’s her goal. She’s hoping to just do a little bit better, so she’s got big goals.”

The juniors should play a key role in the team’s success this season. Last week against Hilhi, Snyder put Lauren Nguyen and Quinn Dudeck together, and he said both players possess a similar attitude — one that could make them a tough pairing.

“Both of them have the same heart — ‘I’m not going to quit,’” Snyder said.

Snyder’s top doubles team from last season, Kirklynn Russell and Maggie Hamilton, also returns. Hamilton played No. 2 singles against Hilhi, while Russell played doubles. Their coach may keep playing them separately for much of the spring, wanting to mix things up.

“I think that they have the potential to have some damage next year when they’re seniors,” Snyder noted.

Another junior returner from last season is Amanda Ganete, who turned out late this spring but played in Liberty’s No. 3 singles spot last year.

The Falcons kick off Northwest Conference play on Thursday against Rex Putnam for their first home match of the season.

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