With the weather finally breaking enough for the local tennis teams to hit the courts, the Morris, Coal City and Minooka boys squads are trying to fill out the details when it comes to their starting lineups. On Monday, Morris officially kicked off the season with a 4-1 loss against Princeton.
The Redskins return two key players from last year in All-Conference selection Mark Kijowski and teammate Jon Smyk to Keith Anderson’s team. Anderson sees them being the one and two singles players this year. On Monday, Smyk defeated Lucas Bauer, 6-2, 7-8 (7-2), though Kijowski lost to Elliott Beetz, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6.
Joining them on the courts for the opener were the doubles teams of Trevor Allbert and Tommy Ochoa (6-0, 6-1 loss), Matt Borgstrom and Chris Chaidez (3-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss) and David Carlos and Shane Hennesy (6-4, 6-1 loss).
“Really, once again just bringing maximum effort and having fun is the main emphasis,” Anderson said. “I think that sometimes the kids get so wrapped up in winning and losing, that they forget the objective is to have fun. The wins will come, especially in tennis, as a result of the work that you have to put in during the offseason.”
Anderson has a new assistant coach this year in Eric Davy and he is glad to have him on board.
“Eric has been a real positive force for the team,” Anderson said. “Coach Davy has a great knowledge of the game when it comes to technique and strategy, and he is a wonderful addition to our team at MCHS.”
Despite the wicked weather this spring, Anderson said that his team has been prepared for it.
“Last season we realized that the weather has and always will be an issue when it comes to practice time, so the boys did quite a bit of fundraising. As a result of our hard work, we were able to purchase a couple of new items, such as three indoor portable net systems, as well as a new ball machine,” he said. “Because we have these new indoor nets, we have been able to hold practices, while it has been snowing or raining out. I believe the new equipment will have a huge positive impact on out game play during the season.”
Over in Coal City, coach Matt Lehman’s team has been wrestling with the cold and damp conditions and has only been outside a handful of times so far.
“It’s far from ideal, but my guys are just happy to be swinging a racket and are excited to play,” Lehman said. “Our official lineup is far from complete without being able to compete, be we have a solid group of guys that will make a competitive team.”
Coal City’s dual record improved by eight wins last spring from the previous season. However, after losing the likes of Tony Norris, Zach Pierard, Justin Riebe, Billy Fagante, Terry Blondin and Tanner Harmon, repeating that kind of performance may be difficult this time around. Leading the charge to do that, however, are returning seniors Carlos Shoemaker and Zack Vincent. They were the No. 3 doubles team for the Coalers last year.
“They may return this year as our No. 1 doubles team, they may find new partners or Shoemaker may play singles,” Lehman said of the options for them this spring. “Only Shoemaker and Vincent have varsity experience, but we have a large group of sophomores showing potential.”
Like Morris Community High School coach Anderson, Lehman also is placing the emphasis elsewhere, expecting that wins will follow.
“Our emphasis this spring has been team unity. One player can win every match all season, but we can still go 0-20 as a team,” he said. “With no definite returning positions, everyone is playing with everyone and pushing each other to be the best singles and doubles players possible. We need our players focused on being a strong and unified team.”