IR tennis steadies ship heading into Henlopen Conference tournament
The Indian River boys tennis team’s regular season ended like it started: with a .500 record (2-2 then to 6-6 now). They again had losses to Seaford and Smyrna but capped the season with their second win over Lake Forest in a 3-2 decision on May 4.
It’s been tough sledding for the Indians over the past month, due to spring break and band trips, and a string of days with gale-force winds has kept them on its heels and off the courts. But head coach Sean Oates is confident his players will have plenty of time to muster some momentum into the conference tournament on May 12.
“What we need is a good solid week of practice,” Oates said. “If we could get three or four good practices in, then we’d feel like we had our rhythm back.”
Limited practice time or limited quality practice conditions contributed to Indian River’s inconsistent play and are the reason they didn’t repeat or improve upon earlier 3-2 losses to Smyrna and Seaford. But senior captain Fletcher Garrison offered another explanation.
“It was cold and windy, which doesn’t help, but it seems that they’ve picked up their game,” Garrison said, “combined with the fact that we weren’t on our game.”
“We’re starting to peak at the right minute,” added Seaford head coach Phil Burtelle.
All five Seaford teams won in two sets, including a 6-1, 6-2 win by returning third-singles player Trevor Lee, who played with a cast on his left arm.
Freshman Spencer Noel (3-0) had filled in nicely during Lee’s absence, but the doctors cleared him for the Indian River match and he hasn’t been better, according to Burtelle.
“He really wanted to play (despite his cast) and it actually helped his game,” Burtelle said. “Before, he had a two-handed backhand and now he can only use his right hand, which makes him slow down and watch the ball better.”
Indian River’s first-doubles team of Charlie Cole and Ed Smith (8-4) handed Seaford’s best their only loss at the season’s inception but couldn’t do it again, though they will have a sporting chance at them again at the conference tournament on May 12.
They placed third in last year’s conference tournament in second doubles.
Current second-doubles team of Tommy Reichart and Jordan Marvel hold the team’s best record at 9-3 but won’t be able to compete at the tournament together due to a school trip.
Freshman Eric Lindy will play for Reichart.
Participants will have only five minutes for warm-ups, compared to the 15- to 20-minute sessions they are used to with conference matches, so focus will remain the key.
“You want to scope your competition and think about what may’ve worked against them or didn’t in each match. But pretty much you try to stay focused as much as you can,” Garrison said. “Since we’ve had the less-than-stellar season, we thought we would have conferences as a place where we can make up some ground.”
While every team from every school in the conference will play at the Sea Colony Tennis Center for the conference tournament, the same cannot be said for this year’s state tournament. Each singles player (1-3) will play at separate high schools while the doubles tandems will play at Smyrna High School.