The Indian River varsity tennis season began with a lot of hype and promise, following on a 7-7 record last year. They returned seven players and each of them spent the time to improve their game for the upcoming season. The one glaring blemish on last year’s team was the number of matches they lost by one.
Indian River lost five matches (to Seaford, Milford, Lake Forest, Smyrna and Dover) by a team score of 3-2, and this year head coach Sean Oates wanted that to change. More experience and more skill could remedy the affliction. But apparently there is more to it than just that — they have to play for a little less power and more consistency.
The Indians avenged last year’s loss to Lake Forest with their own 3-2 win in the season-opener but fell to perennial conference powerhouse Seaford and to Smyrna, both 3-2.
Thus far, Oates’ doubles teams have been the rock for a 2-2 overall record and by themselves have a 4-0 record. Charlie Cole and Ed Smith defeated Smyrna’s first doubles team of Colin Eldred and Bill Gordon in three sets: 6-4, 6-7 and 6-2. Second-doubles tandem Tommy Reichart and Jordan Marvel downed their opponents in consecutive sets: 6-4, 6-4.
“My first-doubles played well against Smyrna,” Oates said. “We went to a tie-breaker in the second set and I laid out a game plan for them that they followed to a T. They won that set and went up 5-0 in the third. They got a little sloppy and gave up a couple games, but overall played beautiful tennis. Excellent tennis.”
Oates said at the beginning of the season that focus would be the rise or fall of his doubles teams, but it appears that it’s his singles players who need a remedial lesson in Focus 101.
“Smyrna’s singles players didn’t hit the ball hard but they did keep the ball in play and covered the court well,” Oates said. “They’d hit and hit it, and then we’d hit it out. I told the guys that, at this level, there’s nothing wrong with keeping the ball in play. The player that’s going to win the point doesn’t hit the hardest — they don’t make the mistakes.”
“You can’t stand on the baseline and swing hard,” continued Oates. “It’s become our worst nightmare. We need to become much more consistent.”
All three singles players earned wins in two sets against Cape Henlopen but it was their inability to buckle down at critical moments that resulted in a loss against Seaford.
Second-singles player Chad Brasure (1-3) was up 4-1 in the final set but lost the final seven games. He lost the match due to unforced errors. Third-singles player Zach Mitchell (2-2) led the third set 4-2 but lost the final four games for the loss.
The Indians will continue conference play against Milford on April 4 and at home against Sussex Central on April 6.