They’re not quite ready for the Grand Slam or Wimbledon, but the Indian River varsity boy’s tennis team is almost ready for the southern Henlopen conference this year.
Head coach Sean Oates lost his best singles player — Connor McMullen — to graduation, but has gained more talent in return.
“Seven of our guys had significant playing time last year and that should help us going into the season,” said Oates. “Right now we have five good guys competing for the top three singles positions this season.”
After struggling through a 4-12 season Oates will look to a solid core of upperclassmen this season. Seniors Bobby and T.J. Boyce will definitely solidify the roster after transferring last season. “After we lost Connor — the Boyce brothers transferred in and they have played well so far,” said Oates.
Junior Fletcher Garrison has improved his play, putting him atop the team singles rankings as well. “Fletcher hits the ball well and can keep it in play, which is important,” said Oates.
The Indians also return senior Sean McMullen, juniors Zack Mitchell, Tommy Reichart, and newcomer Chad Bradure.
“Chad has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. We’ll see how far he can go,” said Oates.
Despite Oates’ newfound team depth, they will still have an uphill battle in the Henlopen conference as they strive for respectability. Conference rivals Seaford, Milford, Caesar Rodney and Dover all return with programs intact and ready for a run at the title. Seaford, Caesar Rodney and Dover were all ranked in the top ten in the state last year.
“Once we play Seaford next week we’ll know where we stand,” said Oates.
Overall, tennis programs in Sussex County are less fortunate — many of them simply don’t exist. “There are at least five schools that don’t even have programs as opposed to year-round play upstate,” said Oates.
With that in mind, Oates hopes to attract young athletes who may not have an opportunity to play their first sport of choice.
“There are some kids at the middle school level that want to play baseball because that’s the cool thing to do, but they may not get to play. We’re willing to teach athletes the game and, who knows, maybe they’ll be good at it,” said Oates.
As a new season begins, a new level of consistency is needed in order to succeed where others came up short in past seasons.
“We need to continue to improve and establish a level of consistency in order to