“Losing five of the six varsity players, and with the lone returner being a sophomore, it definitely shows we are young and varsity inexperienced.
“But that’s OK,” Unruh is quick to add. “It will be a new look, and we’re going to definitely have to work pretty hard in order to continually be competitive every week. The potential is there to do well, so we’re going to have to really work hard.”
The returning varsity player, sophomore Clay Shewey, will assume the No. 1 singles spot to start the season, Unruh said.
If there’s been any fortunate turn of fate this season, it’s that Unruh has inherited a solid varsity player in foreign-exchange student Max Thiel.
“He has definitely strengthened our team,” Unruh said of the Germany native. “Overall, he’s probably right there with Clay, maybe a little under. As of now we’re looking at him as our No. 2 singles, but that could change.”
The remaining four spots will be open season for about seven hopefuls. Leading the pack are juniors Ben Bebermeyer, Matthew Brown and Mark Prieb, all of whom have been competing since their freshman year.
Also in the mix are sophomore Joe Fisher, senior transfer student Steve Brown, who is in his first year of competitive tennis, and Brandon McMillen, a sophomore who didn’t come out last year, but has worked on his game during the off-season, including tennis lessons.
A pleasant surprise so far has been the play of freshman Taylor Hagen, who also is in the mix for a varsity spot.
“He hasn’t played any competitive tennis, but he has some serious potential I think, so he may slide in there, too,” Unruh said.
Rounding out the 12-man roster roster are sophomore J. Michael Hiebert and freshmen Sam Bookless and Ben Reiswig.
“I would have 13 (athletes), but I lost a practically guaranteed varsity spot in Nolan Dirks, who had wrist surgery and is out for the season,” Unruh said.
Having so many holes in the lineup has at least one advantage, Unruh said.
“It sure creates more competitiveness in practice when everybody knows they have a chance to play varsity,” he said. “Practices have been good, pretty intense and competitive all the way through.
“This might be a year where my lineup might be different every week in order for me to find the good fit—especially in doubles—that will make us as competitive as possible in every tournament. That’s the goal.”
The Trojans open their schedule Thursday with a quadrangular at Conway Springs that also includes South Barber and Circle.
“That’s always a pretty tough quad,” Unruh said. “I’m not anticipating wins as a team, but I’m anticipating us getting better—and continually getting better—and being competitive.
“That’s the goal of any rebuilding, to get better every week,” he added.
Next Tuesday, Unruh will take a depleted team to compete at Smoky Valley. At least three varsity candidates, including Shewey, will be attending a youth conference in California.
With the exception of Shewey, the team should be intact again next Thursday afternoon for the team’s home opener at the Sports Complex.
“We kind of have some things stacked against us, but we’re going to keep going strong,” Unruh said. “I’m optimistic. As for what the season holds, I don’t that. But I always expect us to be competitive in every tournament.”