The Panthers have 10 freshmen on the roster this season.
Growing the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ tennis team’s numbers was a universal goal heading into last offseason. So far, so good.
This spring, there were 17 kids, 10 of whom were freshmen, that showed up to tryouts and made the team. There were 10 players in total on the roster last season.
“I was so excited [to see the high turnout] because to me that shows we’re building so much in the program,” said second-year head coach Alyssa Hayes, whose team finished 5-12 last season. “All of the returning players really tried to get new players to come and play.”
Hayes credited the summer tennis program run by Sue Moss, an assistant coach on the girls’ team, for the spike in numbers as well.
“I know that also helps the athletes,” Hayes said. “That helps give them a nice place to play tennis and the hope is they return in the spring.”
With such a young roster comes development.
“The 10 of them (freshmen) are new to tennis or have been playing but this is their first time being on a team for tennis,” Hayes explained. “We’re working on the basics like how to serve, how to hit cross court, how to have the best backhand grip and how to score.”
The upperclassmen are also lending a helping hand and benefiting at the same time.
“It has been really nice to see experienced players work with younger players to get everyone improving,” Hayes said. “Even the experienced players improve from working with the younger players because they bring something new to the team as well.”
For the Panthers, improvement is key this season. They return just two starters with the graduation of five key seniors from last spring.
Junior captain Brian Fox developed into a force for W-H last season. He rallied off four straight victories at one point and played a key role in the Panthers’ three-game winning streak to end the campaign. He moves from No. 2 singles to No. 1.
“He’s been holding that strong so far,” Hayes said. “He’s just so positive, so organized, he really brings consistency. He reminds the kids when practice is or he’s always there getting them stretched and started. He’s a good role model.”
A starter in doubles last season, senior Matt Hickey will be the Panthers No. 2 singles player.
“He has truly stepped up and fought his way into second singles,” Hayes said. “I am looking forward to seeing him play in the new position.”
The other spots are really up for grabs right now.
“We’re still competing, but they’re doing awesome,” Hayes said. “They’re going head to head every practice. I do have a few freshmen that are contending for that top-seven spot, too.”
The Panthers begin the season Monday, April 8 at 4 p.m. at home against Sandwich.
“I just want to build some consistency, to build some good routine” Hayes said. “I think for a lot of them, it’s new. I want to see how they do transferring their skills from practice to matches.”