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home : sports : sports   May 25, 2016

4/3/2014 10:41:00 AM
Boys tennis preview

Kevin Chlum
Sports Editor

The area boys tennis scene will look very different this year as seven of the NewsTribune All-Area players graduated.

Only Mendota returns all-area players, but several other teams have experienced players back as well.

Below is a look at each team’s outlook.

La Salle-Peru Cavaliers
Coach: Sue McKnight
Returning NewsTribune All-Area players: None
Season outlook: The Cavaliers graduated 2013 NewsTribune Players of the Year Jake and Trent Lipka along with Reo Hammers — the 2012 NT Player of the Year — but McKnight likes her team’s depth.

“I’m looking forward to the season,” McKnight said. “I’m excited. I think they’re going to play well, and they’re excited. They know they have a lot of talent on this team. I have a lot of depth this year, which I’m excited about, so if somebody is not playing up to their potential, I can switch them out. I’m about 10 deep this year, which I haven’t had in a while.”

Returning players Luke Hartauer and Zack Giovanine are vying for the No. 1 singles spot as each has won a challenge match against the other.

Hartauer played No. 1 singles at the team’s first tournament, but McKnight said the positions could change.

Returners Drake Bruhns and Alex Strickler are paired at No. 1 doubles.

“They’re playing very well right now,” McKnight said. “They’re really consistent at the net. They really have great serves. They complement each other on the court.”
Freshman Mason Clark and sophomore Aaron Pellican are at No. 2 doubles and McKnight sees strong potential in the young duo.

McKnight said the Cavaliers, who are in their first season on new courts at L-P’s recently built sports complex, hope to compete for the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference and sectional titles and send as many players to state as possible.

St. Bede Bruins
Coach: Mike Lau
Returning NewsTribune All-Area players: None
Season outlook: The Bruins are young this season as they only have four upperclassmen.

Ernie Steinz is the lone returning senior and he will likely play No. 1 doubles with junior Jake Hockings.

Junior Joe Kim will be playing No. 1 singles.

The rest of the lineup is not yet set.

“The rest of the team I honestly am not sure of,” St. Bede coach Mike Lau said. “We have only been able to have about three practices so far because of weather.”
The Bruins also feature 10 sophomores and five freshmen.

Mendota Trojans
Coach: Tom Corrigan
Returning NewsTribune All-Area players: James Carroll, Cody Phalen, Mark Prescott
Season outlook: With three all-area players back as well as several other returning players, Corrigan and the Trojans are optimistic for the season.

“We have a lot of experience back,” Corrigan said. “This year will be the year to make some noise. Everybody is playing well.”

Carroll and Prescott will play No. 1 doubles together for the third year in a row after going 20-14 and earning a state berth last year.

Phalen returns to No. 1 singles after having the area’s best winning percentage last year by going 18-8 (.692).

Junior Joey Meyers returns at No. 2 singles, Lukas Brandner — who played No. 1 singles on the freshman/sophomore team last year — will play No. 2 doubles with Nick Phalen and Kruger Keene and Tyler Doughty will team up at No. 3 doubles after playing No. 1 doubles at the fresh/soph level last year.

With all the returning talent, the Trojans hope to win three-fourths of their matches and compete for a sectional crown.

“This is probably our best chance,” Corrigan said about winning a sectional. “This is the most depth that we’ve ever had. We just want to keep playing our best every match and let the matches fall where they may.”

Ottawa Pirates
Coach: Matt Gross
Returning NewsTribune All-Area players: None
Season outlook: The Pirates took a big hit through graduation last year as they lost their top two singles players in NT All-Area picks David Dobrose and Jackson Evensen.

“This team is not very experienced,” Gross said. “It’ll be an interesting year to see how everything goes. I’m looking forward to it.”

Ottawa does return a few experienced players in seniors Alec Lindemann, Luke Winchester, Nolan McCorkle and Tyler Lukkari.

Other players expected to contribute are seniors Alex Koziel and Alex Keene along with juniors Mason Curtis, Josh Dale and Matt Thrush.

With all the new faces, Gross is still trying to determine his lineup.

“We’re still trying to figure things out with all the crummy weather we’ve had,” Gross said. “We haven’t been able to get too much settled just yet. With a little bit more time, we’ll be able to work it out.”

Despite the overhauled roster, Gross hopes the Pirates compete well in the NIB 12 and the sectional, which is back at Ottawa this season after being held in DeKalb last year.

“The goals really remain the same,” Gross said. “We’ll try to keep things simple and try to be really good at the fundamentals. Hopefully, that will put a few ‘Ws’ on the boar for us. Conference, sectional and getting kids to state, those are given goals we have every year. Hopefully it all works out.”

Princeton Tigers
Coach: Connie Lind
Returning NewsTribune All-Area players: None
Season outlook: The Tigers return four of their top six players from last season.
However, Princeton’s lineup will look very different as players will move around and players who missed last season return.

Senior Zack Hicks played No. 1 singles toward the end of last season but is moving to No. 1 doubles and partnering with classmate Tyson Lorensen, who missed last season but played on the varsity as a sophomore.

“My No. 1 doubles team is going to be competitive,” Lind said.

Junior Elliott Beetz moves from No. 2 singles at the end of last season to No. 1 singles.

The No. 2 doubles team is Brady Frank — who played in several spots last year — and either Lucas Bauer or Ian Nichols.

Whoever doesn’t play with Frank will play No. 2 singles.

In the mix for No. 3 doubles are Ryan Jensen — who missed last season with injury — Vlad Stepanov and Josh Wray.

“Our goal is to always be competitive, and to go out and have the boys play their best and enjoy themselves,” Lind said.

IVCC Eagles
Coach: Julie Milota
Season outlook: The Eagles will rely on a lineup full of local players, led by Ottawa graduate David Dobrose.

The former Pirate will play No. 1 singles and team with La Salle-Peru alumnus Trent Lipka at No. 1 doubles.

Lipka also will play No. 3 singles.

“David Dobrose has shot variation, great footwork, determination and persistence. This will ultimately make him successful in the upcoming matches,” Milota said. “Lipka and Dobrose are a fantastic doubles pair. When they consistently close in at net together, they are fierce competitors with wide wing spans.

“Lipka has a tough kick serve and does a great job setting up the point. Dobrose has beautiful footwork that allows him to effectively and consistently move to net. They are tough to pass and will build momentum as the season progresses.”

Another Ottawa-L-P pairing will fill the No. 2 doubles spot in Ottawa alumnus Matt Guenther and former L-P standout Nate Adcock.

Guenther also will play No. 4 singles, while Adcock will play No. 5 singles.

Rounding out the lineup are Streator graduates Alex Lopez at No. 2 singles, Race Melvin at No. 6 singles and Broc Dodge at No. 7 singles.

Lopez and Melvin will team up at No. 3 doubles.

“Our goal is to play each day better than the last,” Miolta said. “This type of passion comes from within, so we dig deep down everyday. Everyday we work to produce excellence.”

Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.

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