Trojans will launch 2002 campaign with a new coach

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
In his first season as boys’ tennis coach at Hillsboro High School, Kory Unruh has at least one advantage over a veteran coach.

He doesn’t have many expectations of his team based on previous performance.

“How are we going to compete? I don’t know, to be quite honest,” he said. “I’m not really associated with what it takes to win here, other than all my scouting-and most of those were high performers.”

Unruh did his scouting as the men’s and women’s tennis coach for Tabor College the past two seasons. He and Lonnie Isaac essentially traded programs this summer when the successful Trojan coach moved down the block to take over the Bluejay program after Unruh resigned to take a teaching position at HHS.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Unruh said of his new role. “I’m an opportunist and I’m excited about it. I think I have guys out who are willing to make the effort, and that’s what helps.”

Also making a transition to Tabor were the Trojans’ top two players from last season’s regional championship team: four-time state qualifier Michael Hagen and three-time qualifier Jared Hefley.

“We lost two big ones in Hefley and Hagen,” said Unruh, who calls this year’s team “varsity inexperienced.”

“We’re going to have to work pretty hard,” he added. “I’ve just seen them one day. Do I think the potential is there? Yes. It’s just a matter of how dedicated we can be and hard we work at it.”

Heading the list of returnees is Brandon Ratzlaff, who, as a sophomore, qualified for state in doubles last spring with Hefley.

“Brandon will probably play singles this year just because we’re going to need a strong singles player,” Unruh said.

Beyond Ratzlaff, Unruh is looking to his returning senior-letter winners for leadership. Those seniors are Adam Driggers, Jesse Janzen, Caleb Dirks and Jordan Woelk.

“I’m looking to Driggers and Brandon to be the key right now, but tennis is a weird sport,” Unruh said. “I’m thinking they’ll be our leaders and our most beneficial players, but you never know.”

Driggers mostly played singles last season while Ratzlaff and the other seniors played doubles.

Unruh said it’s too early to know who will fill what roles this season.

“It’s up in the air,” he said. “It’s a work in progress. I can take this opportunity to look at them, because I don’t know much about them. That way they know I’m not just going to assume that they’ll play this or that.

“Right now I would say Brandon and Driggers are my singles, but that may change,” he added. “It’s very tentative after one day’s worth of looking at them.”

When practice opened last Thursday, Unruh had nine players on his roster.

Also likely to contribute this year is junior Tyler Weinbrenner, even though the Trojan basketball standout is relatively new to competitive tennis.

“Tyler hasn’t made much of an effort toward the sport, but he’s athletic,” Unruh said. “If you have a little bit of knowledge and desire, you can go a long way.”

Even though his exposure to the team has been minimal to this point, Unruh said he likes what he’s seen so far.

“I think I have guys out who are willing to make the effort, and that’s what helps,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I can see we can improve on.”

Unruh won’t speculate how his team will match up in the Mid-Central Activities Association or beyond.

“That’s the farthest thing for me right now,” he said. “But like anything, I don’t care how well we’ve done before, and I don’t care what (the players) expect. I myself expect us to finish in the top half.

“If that’s going to happen, I don’t know. But I think it’s possible just from what I’ve seen of the quality of the athletes.”

The Trojans will open their season March 28 at Conway Springs. Matches are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Hillsboro will host two regular-season tournaments. The first one, the Trojan Invitational, is scheduled for April 4.

Then, following the MCAA league tournament in Hesston May 3, the Trojans will host the Hillsboro Invitational May 6.

The starting time for both home tournaments is 3 p.m.

Unruh said Hillsboro will also host a Class 3-2-1A regional a week later, May 13. That tournament will begin at 7:30 a.m.

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