NEW PALESTINE — Des Evans wasn’t looking for the head coaching job at New Palestine, but it found him anyway.
As an instructor at the Indianapolis Racquet Club, Evans has coached countless youth and high school tennis players from the region during the past 16 years, including several from Doe Creek Middle School and New Palestine High School.
His reputation alone made him an ideal candidate for the position, and after former boys head coach Chris Hardin resigned in July, some of the New Palestine players’ parents shared that opinion when they asked him to apply.
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Hired on last month, Evans said it’s been a great decision, and the adjustment period has been nearly nonexistent for both him and the team.
“Knowing that it’s quite far from where I operate in Carmel and around the Dean Road area (in Indianapolis), I agreed,” Evans said. “So far the distance hasn’t been a problem, getting out there. The team has been enjoyable. They work hard and the team chemistry is remarkable.”
For a program in which winning is a tradition, it found a perfect match in Evans, whose webpage clearly agrees.
“Creating a winning culture.”
“It’s nice to win, but it doesn’t matter whether you’ve won or lost. It’s how you’ve played the game,” Evans elaborated on his coaching philosophy. “Whether you’re a good sport; whether you show respect to your opponent and your opposing team. I’d rather lose the match and have great etiquette and good behavior and be good ambassadors for the school. That’s more important to me than winning the match.”
In recent years, the Dragons have done both.
Under Hardin’s leadership, the team won three consecutive sectional titles and five straight Hancock County championships.
He coached the boys tennis team for nine seasons, leading his players to the program’s first regional match victory last fall.
The Dragons’ sectional championship run with Hardin began in 2008 with a string of three consecutive and resumed after a brief hiatus in 2011 with another three in a row to increase the school’s overall total to 13 titles since 1992.
As the team enters a new era, expectations remain the same, said Evans — a Zimbabwe native before he emigrated in the United States in 2000 — who said he believes the team’s annual goals are once again obtainable.
The reason for his optimism: a solid mix of experienced upperclassmen and a infusion of youth.
“We have some young blood coming through,” Evans said. “I think it’s good because it will give depth to New Pal tennis. If we had all seniors on the team, then obviously the question would be what are you going to be like next year? So with both youth and seniors, we are in good position.”
Among the squad’s elder statesmen will be senior Coltin Espich, who will move from No. 2 singles into the top spot at No. 1. Meanwhile, freshman Matthew True will occupy Espich’s vacant spot in his first varsity season.
Four players are vying for time at No. 3 singles in senior Conner Page, freshman Carson Gavin, sophomore Nick Ochs and freshman Tyler Swain with the absence of junior Jacob Purcell.
“He’s captain of the show choir, and he’s very good academically, so regrettably he’s decided not to play this year,” Evans noted on the loss of last year’s No. 2 singles player. “He’s a junior, and we’d love to have him because it would give us more depth on our team.”
The Dragons have a surplus of potentials in the race for the doubles teams.
No. 1 doubles players are projected to be seniors Evan Rejer and Josh McKinney. The duo played No. 2 doubles last season and are moving up to take the spots of Ben Farley and David Thompson, who graduated this past spring.
If Swain doesn’t secure the final singles spot, he could see time at No. 2 doubles along with more than a few newcomers, Evans said.
“We’re hoping to win sectional again against someone like Mt. Vernon. It’s no guarantee, but we’re hoping to,” Evans said.
“One thing is certain, (assistant) coach Craig Tammen is a great asset. He’s very enthusiastic about the game, and it’s great working with someone like that, who loves the game. That’s good for our program, and good for the kids having him on staff as well.”
NEW PALESTINE DRAGONS
Coach: Des Evans, first year
2014: 20-3, Hancock County Tourney champions, sectional champions, lost to North Central 5-0 in regional semifinal
2015 key returnees (with grade): Coltin Espich (12), Josh McKinney (12), Evan Rejer (12)
First serve: The Dragons open the regular season against Whiteland at home on Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m.