NEW PALESTINE — There was a lot to celebrate in 2021.
New Palestine’s boys tennis team swept Hancock County and Mt. Vernon Sectional tournaments. The Dragons won their first-round regional match before losing to No. 2 North Central in the regional championship.
The junior varsity was good, too. They went 17-0 and won their version of the county tournament.
Many of those JV guys will try to do the same at the next level in 2022.
The Dragons graduated six off last year’s outstanding group, including all three singles players and the No. 1 doubles team.
Only sophomore Moses Haynes returns. He was part of the No. 2 doubles tandem. Haynes will move up the ranks and play No. 1 singles this year.
“We’re extremely young,” New Palestine coach Jean Graham said. “We have a large class of sophomores and juniors. They’re coming up from the JV, so I am getting my first chance to really get a good look at them. We’re making good progress, but have a long way to go. They’re improving.”
Ezra Schwier, the Hancock County Player of the Year, is now part of the program at Franklin College. No. 2 singles player Colin Darley and No. 3 Zach Au were also part of the graduating class.
Jackson Havel, now playing at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and Clayton Wesley were the No. 1 doubles team. Devon Bird is the other varsity graduate.
“We have some big shoes to fill,” Graham said.
Sophomores are set to fill most of the lineup openings.
Arjomand Khokhar, who missed most of last season, is slated to take the spot at No. 2 singles. Joey McPike will play No. 3.
Max Havel, a sophomore, and Brady Torzewski will move in to the No. 1 doubles vacancy.
Senior Brendon Sego, juniors Eli Sloan and Nicolas Parrett and sophomores Joel Dorval and Dawson Lynch are top candidates for the No. 2 doubles team.
Graham has a lot of players to choose from. She has 30 out for this year’s team. Only four are seniors.
“The JV won the county title and went 17-0. Going from JV to varsity, now you’re a sophomore playing a senior, that’s a big step,” Graham said. “It takes a while to get accustomed to a faster pace. This group will come around. It’s just going to take some time.”
The Dragons open the season Monday at Greensburg. After three road contests — including a Hoosier Heritage Conference matchup at Yorktown — their first home match is against HHC powerhouse Delta. New Palestine hosts the county tournament Sept. 10.
“We’re going to have some growing pains,” Graham added. “As the season goes on they are going to get stronger and stronger. That’s our objective.”
“My young guns, if they keep firing like they are, I think we will be competitive.”