The Smith-Cotton boys tennis team has a lot of youth and some big numbers this spring.
“We’re looking pretty good,” said senior Noah Shepard. “We’re returning three varsity guys and I think we can make a push for the conference title.”
The Tigers went 8-7 in dual matches last season. Shepard was second in the conference at No. 6 singles. Logan Fluty and Andrew Tilley were second at No. 2 doubles.
Coach Heather Clancy will count on those returning varsity players to provide leadership on a team with five freshmen and a lot of new faces.
Tilley said he has already seen a lot of improvement on the team and younger players with a lot of talent.
“I think it’s a pretty good looking season,” he said. “We’re going to do well.”
Tilley said he wants to improve his own game by being more accurate with his shots.
Fluty said he has been working on consistency with his two-hand backhand.
“Logan will attack the net,” Clancy said. “He’ll hit an approach shot and attack the net, which is something I was stressing and he started doing toward the end of last season and started winning a lot more matches.”
Shepard has been working on the mechanics of his serve this season, hoping to get a more solid, fluid motion.
“I want to work on more consistent serving,” he said. “My first serve last year wasn’t very consistent and I feel like that was the worst part of my game.”
Once he gets the serve in, Clancy said his game has been pretty consistent.
“He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, he waits for his opponent to make mistakes,” she said. “He’s a lot more patient than a lot of players are.”
The team has 15 players and with only four seniors, many will be back next season.
“They have to challenge each other to earn spots on the team,” Clancy said. “This way they have more people to play against and different styles. Not everybody plays the same. They get different experiences each time.”
However with the bad weather forcing the team to practice indoors for the first couple of weeks, Clancy hasn’t had a chance to set a lineup or evaluate who might play where. That is something that will come as part of a busy week this week as the weather improves and the team can move out from the high school gym to the courts.
“They’re probably going to have to play two or three matches against each other at practice so I can figure out who’s going to be where,” Clancy said.
One freshman who could make an immediate impact is Phoenix Painter.
“He came to our camp this summer so he knows the game and he’s helping out the younger players, giving them tips, too,” Clancy said. “He could possibly be on varsity at five or six.”
The Tigers are scheduled to begin the season at 4:30 p.m. Monday at home against Knob Noster.
“We have a young team and it has a good future ahead of it if they keep working hard with Clancy,” Fluty said.