Coach: Frank DeLois, 1st year.
2012: 18-6. Lost in sectional championship to New Palestine, 4-1. Finished runner-up to New Palestine in Hancock County Tourney, 27-22.
2013 projected varsity (with grade):
No. 1 singles — Dakota Smith (12)
No. 2 singles — Brandon Hull (12)
No. 3 singles — Drew White (12)
No. 1 doubles — Max Holtzclaw (12) & Jake Kauth (12)
No. 2 doubles — Bailey Hull (12) & Zach Wright (12)
Outlook: An all-senior lineup loaded with varsity experience has the Cougars thinking big.
“This is the most dedicated and most focused group I’ve ever been around,” No. 1 doubles player Max Holtzclaw commented. “Our goals this year … obviously we want to win all of our matches that we can, and sectional championship is our ultimate goal.”
Last year’s squad put up a solid 18-6 record and fell in the sectional championship to New Palestine by a 4-1 score.
The Cougars’ lone sectional title match win came from Holtzclaw and partner Jake Kauth, who advanced deep into the individual state tourney and finished 20-4.
Holtzclaw expects the doubles tandem to do well again, but he and Kauth won’t be satisfied with individual success.
“We want to go just as far, but we want it to be more team-oriented this year,’ Holtzclaw said. “A lot of the guys went with us (to the state tourney matches) and they saw how competitive it can get. And so we want that with the whole team this year.”
Dakota Smith returns to the No. 1 singles position for the Cougars. He gave New Palestine’s Brent Barrett a challenge in the sectional championship before falling in three sets. Earlier in 2012 at the Hancock County Tourney, Smith defeated Barrett in three sets.
Brandon Hull at No. 2 singles and Bailey Hull at No. 2 doubles also saw extensive varsity court time last fall.
Asked if the Cougars can challenge the Dragons — winners of four of the last five sectionals — for local supremacy, Holtzclaw expressed confidence.
“Absolutely. We just have to stay focused. Most nights you can catch us seniors and the varsity out at Riley Park playing because we want to stay focused and dedicated to beating everyone we can this year.”
Coach: Erin Wolski, 3rd year.
2012: Lost in sectional semifinal to Greenfield-Central, 4-1. Finished fourth in Hancock County Tourney with zero points.
2013 projected varsity (with grade):
No. 1 singles — Ryan Speas (10)
No. 2 singles — Danny Rash (11)
No. 3 singles — Brandon Ray (12)
No. 1 doubles — Garrett Hammond (12) & Kirby Petry (11)
No. 2 doubles — Garek Ferguson (10) & Corbin Jennings (9)
Outlook: Ryan Speas took his lumps last season as a freshman No. 1 singles player, as did a handful of other Eastern Hancock varsity underclassmen. Coach Erin Wolski believes those challenges will pay off this fall.
“All of the players have grown substantially over the last year,” she said. “Many of them have put in a lot of hard work during the offseason. I think having players with more experience this year will make a big difference.
“I think we will be an even stronger team this year.”
Wolski added that Speas “has been really impressive in practice this last week and I am excited to see his performance this season.”
Brandon Ray (No. 3 singles) and Garrett Hammond (No. 1 doubles) are the senior leaders of the squad. Hammond will likely team with junior Kirby Petry at No. 2 doubles. Petry helped score the Royals’ lone sectional win last season at No. 2 doubles.
Now in her third season as head coach, Wolski believes a consistency has been established in the tennis program.
“I am really proud of our team and grateful to be in my third season,” she said. “I feel like we have created a competitive and supportive team dynamic that has allowed us to be very successful.”