DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Despite heavy graduation losses, Center Grove expects to reclaim its status as one of the state’s top boys tennis team.
For coach Ivan Smith, who’s in 39th season at Center Grove, the priority is to find replacements for the five starters lost to graduation. The only returning starters are junior Peter Golder and senior Tye Thixton.
Golder, who has been slotted in at the No. 3 singles position the past two seasons, moves up to No. 1, while Thixton will play one of the two doubles positions.
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Others returning with varsity experience are seniors Ryan Stemle and Sam Canner. Looking to crack the starting lineup are Akul Vijayvargiya, Brant McCracken and Janesh Karnati.
The Trojans, who have won championships in 29 sectionals, 26 regionals and 11 semistates, were 19-4 last season.
“We again expect to compete against one of the state’s toughest schedules,” Smith said.
The Lancers finished 4-12 last season, and veteran coach Pete Khensouri is confident they will improve on that this year.
“We have 13 players on the roster this year, and we look to pick up where we left off,” he said.
All three singles players return: seniors Kinser Bryant, Kyle Pendleton and Anthony Weber.
Two other seniors who played doubles are Dalton Bieker and Chase Ford. Sophomore Parker Bryant returns and is expected to play doubles.
The Lancers’ only newcomer is freshman Colton Henderson.
With back-to-back Mid-State Conference championships under their belt, the Grizzly Cubs (13-4) have a solid group of players returning.
In the final coaches poll from a year ago, Franklin was No. 18.
“We have returning our No. 1 singles player, junior Noah Roberts, and junior Jacob Rockey at No. 2 singles back,” veteran coach Rod Snyder said.
Also returning is the No. 2 doubles team of sophomores Logan Snyder and Jonah Rockey.
Senior Brett Blakley and sophomore Ethan Klem are expected contribute.
One freshman the team is looking to have an immediate impact is Josiah Rockey.
Coming off a 7-10 season, the Woodmen have set high goals for themselves in 2015.
“If we continue to work hard like we have in practice, there’s no doubt in my mind we can accomplish all of our goals, including a county championship, a Mid-State Conference title and a sectional,” second-year coach Justin Moran said.
The Woodmen return six of seven players from last year’s starting lineup.
Back at the No. 1 singles position is sophomore Jacob Gray.
“We put him in a tough spot playing No. 1 singles last year, but the experience he gained will help him throughout the upcoming season,” Moran said.
Also returning is sophomore Grant Bryant at No. 3 singles, along with juniors Jack O’Reilly and Alex Walsh at doubles, and seniors Zach Lester and Bradley Rothaar at doubles.
Second-year coach Dave Broashears is anticipating major improvements from last year’s 3-16 team.
“This is the final year we will compete in the Mid-Hoosier Conference, but with everyone back we should be able to move up in the standings,” he said.
Senior Brett Maulden, who played the No. 1 singles position last year, returns along with Nos. 2 and 3 singles players Riley Tharpe and Trace Zachery, both juniors.
Juniors Bryce Waddell and Cole Harris, and sophomores Scott Russell and Carson Adams return at doubles.
With a mix of experience and youth, the Warriors are optimistic about the season.
Whiteland (16-4) finished second in the Mid-State Conference Tournament behind Franklin. Three-time all-district senior Sam Venter, who won the conference’s No. 2 singles championship, tops the returners.
Also back are senior doubles players Aaron Scott and Blake Surface, junior Adam Zietlow and sophomore Caleb Scott.
Coach Mike Gillespie expects seniors Josiah Adkins and Austin Damron and junior Ricardo Gonzales to make an impact.