IRHS tennis looks to net Henlopen Conference title
Both the boys’ and girls’ Indian River High School tennis teams are used to winning Henlopen South titles. The girls’ team has won the division for the past four seasons, and the boys’ team has won quite a few of their own — not to mention that most of the team comprises state champion soccer players.
However, despite their Southern success, neither the teams nor individuals have had much success against larger northern teams, including Caesar Rodney, when the Henlopen Conference championships are held at Sea Colony at the end of the season. That is something that boys’ coach Paris Mitchell and girls’ coach Stefanie Riddle will be looking to change for the upcoming spring season.
“This year, at Sea Colony, we’re hoping to win the whole thing,” said Riddle of the team’s season goals. “Definitely, our goal is win the Southern Conference again and, hopefully, win the [Henlopen] conference at Sea Colony. That’s something we haven’t done yet.”
Riddle is taking over head coaching duties for the girls after serving as an assistant coach for both teams last season.
With only one incoming freshman and after graduating a few key players from the 2013 team — including second-team all-conference second-singles player Delaney McMullen — the girls’ squad will rely heavily on its juniors and seniors in 2014.
“We haven’t finished challenge matches, so I don’t have the lineups set,” said Riddle during the team’s first scrimmage, against Stephen Decatur last Tuesday, March 11. “We only have one freshman girl and four sophomores. Our starting players are all juniors and seniors.
“I think, individually, we could take some girls up [to the state tournament]. We didn’t do that last year, either. I think we could compete, for sure.”
To put the team’s upcoming challenge in perspective, Caesar Rodney had 14 all-conference selections in 2013, seven for their boys’ team and seven for their girls’ team.
One of the upperclassmen expected to lead the charge for the IRHS girls will be senior Alyssa McManus, who was the Indians’ other all-conference tennis selection last season. Second-doubles players Leanne Murray and Emily Engh and first-doubles player Ashlyn Calhoun will round out the returning seniors for the Lady Indians.
The boys’ team will be led by senior Sam Izzo and senior Rydge Murray, who will be taking on a new role this season.
“He’s playing one this year, so he’s stepping up to a big position,” Riddle explained.
While the two squads will obviously compete separately, they do practice together, and Riddle emphasized that they are actually all one unified team.
“We start off [practice] doing warm-ups together and then we do some competitive drills, which brings them together,” she stated. “At the end, we always try and bring them together to get that team spirit.”
Both squads will scrimmage James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury, Md., on Tuesday, March 18, before beginning regular-season play on Wednesday, March 26, against Seaford High School. Both matches will begin at 4 p.m., with the girls playing at Indian River and the boys at Seaford.