Losing stinks and just barely losing stinks even more.
Where do you begin… “Did I try hard enough?” “Were they better than me?” “Can I win?”
Those are all questions the members of the Indian River varsity tennis team have been asking themselves. And there is a single answer to all of them — and to the team’s quest to become truly competitive: “Almost.”
The Indians have struggled in the close matches all season long, losing three matches by the score of 3-2 — the third against Dover on April 13.
“It’s getting so frustrating losing these close matches. We haven’t been able to get over the hump,” said Head Coach Sean Oates. “The next few matches should be very competitive for us,” added Oates.
Indian River’s next three matches are against the larger Northern Henlopen Conference teams (Cape Henlopen, Sussex Central and Milford). But size isn’t indicative of success. Milford has the best record of the three schools, with only a 2-3 regular-season record. (Milford beat Cape Henlopen 3-2 on April 18.)
His second-ranked singles player, junior Fletcher Garrison, and the second-ranked doubles team (juniors Zach Mitchell and Chad Brasure) have only lost one match apiece this season.
Garrison defeated his opponent 6-3, 6-1, to improve his record to 6-1 in competitive play. Garrison had missed school due to illness and was questionable for the April 21 match against Cape Henlopen.
Third-ranked singles player senior T.J. Boyce will miss his April 21 match due to reasons unspecified and the Indians’ first-ranked doubles team (juniors Sean McMullen and Tommy Reichart) are representing Indian River in an academic function in California. At the end of the day, Oates will have to fill three starting spots: two singles positions and one doubles team.
But Oates didn’t appear to be too worried about how he would replace them.
“If Fletcher can’t play, then I would probably split Zach and Chad so we can have a chance to win the match. Chad is probably our most individually talented player but sometimes his head isn’t totally into the game,” Oates said. “Bobby (Boyce) will have a really good chance to pick up some wins as well. He has had to play some tough competition as all first-ranked players do.”
Though he is the team’s first-ranked singles player, Boyce lost his match against Dover 6-1, 6-1. His brother T.J. lost 6-3, 6-1. T.J. Boyce’s singles record has plummeted to 0-3 since moving up from first-ranked doubles.
McMullen and Reichart had a golden opportunity to win their doubles match and defeat the No. 7 Dover squad but fell short, 6-3, 2-6, 4-6.
“Our first-ranked doubles team played poorly. They play better when they play up to their competition, but they couldn’t hold onto their lead,” said Oates.
His second-ranked doubles team of Mitchell and Brasure coasted to victory winning 6-3, 6-2, to improve their season record to 6-1.
“Those guys are playing so well together it would be hard to break them up. But they are both capable of playing singles tennis, and one of them or either of them could earn that spot,” said Oates.