Randy Pullen -- KMAland Tennis Coach of the Year

(Clarinda) -- The Clarinda girls tennis program entered the 2022 season with plenty of hype and expectations.

The Cardinals reached those -- and then some -- this past season to earn head coach Randy Pullen the KMAland Coach of the Year honor.

"It's super," Pullen said about the season. "You work for something like this. These girls made it possible."

To understand the Cardinals' 2022 campaign, you must go back to 2021, where Coach Pullen's team posted a 4-6 record. The Cardinals did not have any seniors in their 2021 lineup and lost four of their duals by one match.

The Cardinals did have the conference doubles champions, Mayson Hartley and Taylor Cole. However, Hartley and Cole's season ended on a disappointing note with a first-round upset in the regional finals.

They didn't know it, or maybe they did, but last year's shortcomings set the stage for this year's breakthrough.

"We were ready for the season to start the next day," Pullen said. "We knew there was a lot of unfinished business out there. We weren't happy with the way it ended, and everybody was coming back. There was excitement. The girls knew we were good. The practices were good, and the attitudes were good."

The stars aligned for the Cardinals as they rolled to an undefeated dual record and a third-place finish at the Hawkeye Ten Tournament. Hartley and Cole repeated as Hawkeye Ten champions and paced Clarinda's lineup throughout the season.

As a team, the Cardinals reached the state tournament after wins against Audubon, Shenandoah and Lewis Central before falling to eventual state champion Cedar Rapids, Xavier.

"We wanted to make it to state," Pullen told KMA Sports after their regional final win over Lewis Central.

On the individual side, Hartley and Cole avenged last year's postseason upset with a regional title and ultimately finished sixth at the Class 1A State Doubles Tournament.

The combo provided needed leadership in Clarinda's young lineup while bettering each other.

"They communicate," Pullen said. "They're very vocal. The more they talk, the better they are. They never get down on each other. It's great team chemistry. I'm very fortunate because they are close players. I always say I have two number one players."

While Cole and Hartley grabbed the spotlight, the Cardinals had depth with Avery Walter, Brooke Brown, Riley Nothwehr and Emma Stogdill played roles in the Cardinals' postseason run. The Cardinals' roster featured 15 girls and 10 letter winners.

"We had challenge matches, so these girls had to work up the ladder to earn their spots," Pullen said. "I think we had about 10 different lineups throughout the year. That shows the depth we had. We had freshmen and sophomores below them that showed a lot of promise. The future of Clarinda tennis looks really good."

For Pullen, this year's remarkable season was rejuvenating in his 31st year at the helm.

"This is what makes coaching fun," Pullen said. "We practiced hard, but we had a good time. It made us enjoy it and want to go to practice every day."

As excited as Pullen and his team were heading into this season. That excitement might be exceeded in 2023 as the Cardinals return everybody to their lineup. They also plan to stay busy in the offseason with summer camps and offseason workouts.

"We've talked about goals," Pullen said. "We want to get to the final four and win the conference. It's all within reach."

Pullen joins Zoey Baker (Red Oak), Brian Daoust (Shenandoah), Callie Ohm (Glenwood) as KMAland Coach of the Year winners.

View the full interview below.

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