Southwestern ended Shelbyville’s five-year reign as boys tennis sectional champions in 2015.
New Southwestern coach Brian Ebersold is pushing his current seniors to keep the program’s momentum rolling.
At Shelbyville, head coach Stan Wilkison has much of his 2015 roster back with the goal of redemption in 2016.
“Our goal is to capture our sectional back,” said Wilkison.
Shelbyville and Waldron each lost its No. 1 singles player. Southwestern graduated both of its doubles teams. Triton Central has its entire varsity roster back for new coach Austin Hall. And Morristown coach Steve Gosnell has a full roster bolstered by some of the school’s top athletes.
Here’s a look at the five Shelby County boys tennis programs:
Scott Radford II finished 12-8 in his only season with the Golden Bears. He is playing collegiately at Indiana University East this Fall.
That opens up spots for Evan Phares (12-11 last season at No. 1 and No. 2 singles) and J.T. Uhls (4-4 at No. 3 singles) to move up in the lineup.
Luke Foltz and Sebastian Sandman, who returned to the tennis team after a two-year hiatus, also are in the mix for singles positions.“We will have a couple more challenges this week to see who plays where,” said Wilkison.
At doubles, Wilkison has senior Peyton McQueen, junior Bryce Asher, sophomore Connor Phelps and freshman Luke Asher in the mix for playing time.
Wilkison used four different pairings at No. 1 doubles in 2015. And three more at No. 2 doubles.
“I try to set my lineup (for the season) but it doesn’t always work out that way,” said Wilkison. “With our season, especially early, we have tough teams to face so it’s hard to identify if there is a problem with the lineup or if it’s the competition were playing.”
Shelbyville opens the season at home Tuesday against Hauser.
Typically the first week of school has served as a recruiting period for Gosnell.
But with 12 already on the roster, the veteran Morristown coach has a different dilemma – teaching the basics of tennis to raw athletes.
“I have some guys out that normally don’t do anything in the Fall,” he said. “Or they were playing soccer and decided to try something else. So I’ve got athletes but they’ve not played a lot of tennis. But they are getting a lot better quickly because they are athletes.”
Gosnell expects to go with veteran tennis players Ben Reuter, Nate Reuter and Triton Central transfer Daniel Brenneman at the singles positions.
“After that we have a bunch of guys that are new to the sport or with not a lot of varsity experience,” said Gosnell.
Sam Jones, Alex Wicker and Cain Corbin return from a 2015 squad that finished 1-15.
New to the roster are Garrett Redd, Justin Battles, Conner Osborne, Logan Theobald, Bryce Kirstein and Trevon Carlton, who practiced with the team as an eighth grader since there was no junior high program.
That changes this season at Morristown with girls varsity tennis coach Pat Kohne starting a junior high program that had a solid turnout, according to Gosnell.
Morristown hosts Edinburgh Tuesday in its season opener.
The Spartans were 16-2 in 2015 with dual match losses to Indian Creek early in the season and Franklin Central at the regional.
Southwestern’s doubles pairings finished 32-12 in their final season together. That leaves a huge void for Ebersold to fill.
“We lost four experienced seniors,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of doubles work this offseason.”
At singles, Ebersold can rely on his son, Dakota (16-6 at No. 1 singles in 2015), and Caleb Tennell (14-8 at No. 2 singles) — both seniors — to lead the way.
“We’re pretty set there,” said Brian Ebersold, who flirted with moving Tennell into a doubles position.
Instead, senior Isaac Bush (19-3 at No. 3 singles last year) will slide into a doubles role which clears the No. 3 singles spot for junior Eric Emerick, who was undefeated last year in junior varsity matches.
Bush may be paired with freshman Anthony Atwood, who transferred from Waldron.
Senior Koty Simpson and sophomore Ryan Brockman are penciled in at No. 2 doubles.
Three more talented freshmen fill out the roster and will be counted on more heavily in 2017.
“They are all about the same level battling each other,” said Ebersold.
The Spartans host Eastern Hancock Tuesday.
Four players are battling for three singles positions, according to Hall.
Jeff Miller (7-10 at No. 1 singles in 2015) should return to the top position with Wyatt Felling (5-12 at No. 2 singles), Luke Sanders (8-9 at No. 1 doubles) and Steven Gutzwiller in competition for the remaining two slots.
The odd man out will slip into the No. 1 doubles spot and likely team with Reid Monhollen.
“We’ve had some very competitive challenge matches… which is good but it makes for a longer process (to set the roster),” said Hall, who played collegiately at Marian University and has been a head tennis coach at his alma mater, Indianapolis Lutheran.
Hall believes Logan Buchanan has earned a No. 2 doubles position but his playing partner is yet to be determined.
The Tigers’ roster features 11 players with no seniors.
Triton Central opens the 2016 season on Aug. 17 against Lutheran.
With the graduation of Brandon Dalley (18-2 at No. 1 singles), the 2015 Player of the Year, head coach Ryan Berkemeier promotes Cole Adams (12-3 in singles matches last year) to the top position.
“I’m not worried about that (position),” said Berkemeier. “(Cole) has done well in his first two seasons and he’s working hard in practice.”
Seniors Peyton Huffman, Austin Swain and Evan Smith are competing with freshman Parker Huffman for the other two singles slots.
Peyton Huffman could form one half of the Mohawks’ top doubles team.
“Peyton is a versatile player that can play either singles or doubles,” said Berkemeier. “We’re still doing a lot of doubles stuff in practice, still looking at combos.”
A talented freshman class has finally arrived to bolster Berkemeier’s roster to 11 players in 2016.
“The freshmen have been coming in all summer,” he said. “They might have to play a lot of varsity this year. I’m just not sure where at yet.”
Waldron begins the season Tuesday at Greensburg.
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports.