Uphill battles: East, North have holes to fill as new season begins

Several new faces will populate the Columbus North and Columbus East boys tennis teams this fall, while Hauser has hopes of challenging them for the sectional title.

Both North and East were hit hard by graduation. Each lost their top two singles players, along with others.

Hauser, meanwhile, returns its entire lineup from a team that went 11-5 and tied for the Mid-Hoosier Conference title.

Columbus North

The Bull Dogs won a sectional title last season before falling to Bloomington North in the regional title and finishing 16-7. Four of the seven regulars are gone from that squad.

“We’ve lost some players, and we have a strong group of guys that didn’t play varsity tennis last year, but is still a strong group,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “I don’t consider this a rebuilding year at all for us.”

Junior Kevin Lin, who played No. 1 doubles last year, likely will begin this season at No. 1 singles. Senior Isaac Jackson will move up from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 doubles.

Senior Akshaya Sabapathy likely will move into the No. 2 singles spot, and sophomore Joey Zhao could be at No. 3 singles. Senior Ben Mathew, who played No. 3 singles last year, is battling for one of the three remaining  doubles spots with seniors Chris Ruble and Gabe Kirsch and sophomores Bhavey Jain, Adam Saad, Iman Ma and Atharva Kute.

“We have a lot of good depth there talent-wise,” Hammel said. “They’re playing challenge matches, and we’re switching the lineups around. They’ve improved a lot from last year to this year.”

Columbus East

The Olympians have a new coach in Matt Malinsky, who takes over for Jim Stone. Malinsky has coached the East girls team the past two years.

The Olympians have no seniors and only one returning regular from a team that went 9-6 last season.

“This will probably be more of a rebuilding year,” Malinsky said. “We have a relatively little amount of varsity experience.”

Sophomore Jackson Stevens, the lone full-time returner, moves from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 singles. Junior Luke Miller played some No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles and likely will begin the season at No. 1 doubles with freshman Pranav Kumar.

Juniors Bryce Buening and Jalen Pleak likely will be at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, while Juniors Caige Comstock and Nathan Hatchett could play No. 2 doubles. Juniors Nick Vanaartsen and Aaron Hunter also could see action.

“They’ve been trying to work their way up the lineup the past couple of years,” Malinsky said. “This is their chance, and they’re trying to prove themselves.”

 

Hauser

If the Jets are going to break through and win a sectional title, this may be their best chance.

Hauser will have a veteran team with five seniors in its lineup. Most of those are three- and four-year varsity players.

“We’re pretty good right now,” Hauser coach John Pratt said. “I’m feeling good about being competitive when it comes time for postseason.”

Senior Sam Meek returns at No. 1 singles, and senior Justin Compton is back at No. 2 singles. Junior Sean Miller moves from No. 2 doubles to No. 3 singles.

Senior Jacob Johnson and senior Alex Gross return at No. 1 doubles. Senior Jacob Rose is back at No. 2 doubles and will see action at that spot, along with junior Jacob Rudd, who played No. 3 singles last season, and sophomore Ethan Wallace.

“We have some great youngsters,” Pratt said. “We have a strong varsity and lots of youth coming up, too. It’s good times at Hauser.”

Brown County

The Eagles return three starters from a team that went 10-8.

Junior Chase Watson will move from No. 3 singles to No. 1 singles. Sophomore Aaron McCann moves from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 doubles, where he could be joined by senior Abe Oliver, who played No. 1 doubles and No. 2 doubles last season.

Freshman Aiden Burt and senior Elijah Roush could play No. 2 singles or No. 3 singles or either doubles spot. Freshmen Nolan Patterson and Nathaniel Fox could play No. 3 singles or No. 2 doubles, and freshman Noah Cochran could play doubles.

“I would say it’s definitely a rebuilding year,” Brown County coach Kevin Roush said. “But I’m confident. It could be a really fun year. We’re going to be the young team in the conference.”

Jennings County

The Panthers will be road warriors this season with only four home matches.

Deron Brown returns to the coaching role after taking last year off. The Panthers finished 3-12, but have six varsity players back.

Junior Weston Miller who played No. 1 and No. 2 singles, will be at No. 1 singles. Junior Thomas Schuler and sophomore Wyatt St. John will step in at No. 2 and No. 3 singles.

Senior Briar Davis returns at No. 1 doubles and will be joined by senior Justin Gasper, who played No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Senior Cody St. John and junior Kent Biehle take over at No. 2 doubles.

“The guys are showing pockets of pretty good play, and then they go back to bad habits,” Brown said. “But they’re athletes, and they’re very coachable, so that’s a good combination.”

Edinburgh

The Lancers return No. 1 singles player Coltan Henderson from a 3-12 team and have added three players who played football last year.

Senior Parker Bryant, who played tennis his first two years before playing football last season, likely will be at No. 2 singles. Senior Ryan Gaston could play No. 3 singles.

Senior Gavin Hancock, who played No. 3 singles last season, and junior Bladen Hancock, who played No. 2 doubles, are battling for doubles spots with junior Bryce Burton, sophomore Brayden McManaway and seniors Gabe Wilson and Jacob Atha.

“Each one of those kids plays (multiple) sports,” Edinburgh coach Pete Khensouri said. “Based on their skill and ability, I feel pretty good about it. I like the chemistry and the attitude. I’m very optimistic that we can make an improvement from last year.”

Trinity Lutheran

The Cougars have a new coach in Mark Voss, who also coaches the girls team. He’ll look to guide Trinity to a few wins after it went 0-13 last year.

Senior Bailey Baker, who played No. 1 and No. 2 singles, will be at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Jace Crockett and junior Pierce McCammon are battling at No. 2 singles, and one of them or senior Matt Stuckwisch could play No. 3 singles.

Stuckwisch, if he doesn’t play singles, and junior Caleb Gruenwald will be at No. 1 doubles. Senior Avery Schwipps and sophomore Noah Voelker likely will play No. 2 doubles.

“I think we’re going to be pretty decent,” Voss said. “I think we can give some people a run for their money. We have a core group of about nine people that have some experience. It’s just honing their abilities.”

At a glance

The 2017 boys tennis schedules for Bartholomew County schools:

Columbus East

Today;Bloomington South;5 p.m.

Thursday;at Greenwood;5 p.m.

Aug. 21;at Bedford North Lawrence;5 p.m.

Aug. 22;at Columbus North;4:15 p.m.

Aug. 24;Madison;5 p.m.

Aug. 26;Plainfield;10 a.m.

Aug. 30;Brown County;5 p.m.

Aug. 31;at Jennings County;5 p.m.

Sept. 6;at East Central;5:30 p.m.

Sept. 7;at Batesville;5 p.m.

Sept. 9;at Shelbyville Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 13;Greensburg;4:45 p.m.

Sept. 14;at Seymour;5 p.m.

Sept. 16;East Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 18;at Jennings County in HHC tourney;5 p.m.

Sept. 20;vs. TBA in HHC Tournament;5 p.m.

Sept. 22;HHC Tournament at TBA;5 p.m.

Columbus North

Friday;at Jeffersonville Tournament;6:30 p.m.

Saturday;at Jeffersonville Tournament;9 a.m.

Aug. 21;at Plainfield;5 p.m.

Aug. 22;Columbus East;4 p.m.

Aug. 24;Southport;5:30 p.m.

Aug. 26;Terre Haute North;11 a.m.

Aug. 31;at Perry Meridian;5:30 p.m.

Sept. 2;Center Grove;9 a.m.

Sept. 5;vs. Terre Haute South at Bloomington North

Sept. 7;at Franklin Central;6 p.m.

Sept. 9;Columbus North Invitational

Sept. 12;Bloomington South;6 p.m.

Sept. 16;at Floyd Central;10 a.m.

Sept. 19;at Greenwood;5 p.m.

Sept. 21;Bloomington North;5:30 p.m.

Sept. 23;at Silver Creek;10 a.m.

Sept. 25;at Roncalli;5 p.m.

Hauser

Tuesday;Shelbyville;5 p.m.

Thursday;Brown County;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 21;Milan;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 24;at Eastern Hancock;5 p.m.

Aug. 28;at Edinburgh;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 29;Southwestern (Shelby);4:30 p.m.

Aug. 31;at Indian Creek;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 5;at Triton Central;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 7;at Morristown;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 12;Waldron;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 14;at Greensburg;5 p.m.

Sept. 16;MHC tourney at Waldron;9 a.m.

Sept. 21;at Oldenburg Academy;5 p.m.

Sept. 23;Hauser Classic;9 a.m.

Sept. 26;at Indianapolis Lutheran;4:30 p.m.

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.