In his second year as head coach for boys’ tennis at Hillsboro, Bob Woelk welcomes a roster that more than doubles the size of last season’s team.
Returning are the same three players who have been part of the tennis program through all four years of high school: Dylan Wiens, Dakota Klein and Jacob Isaac.
Meanwhile, the four newcomers are all freshmen: Noah Bartel, Henry Hein, Ethan Plenert and Aidan Unruh.
For the first time in a while, Hillsboro will have sufficient numbers to fill a six-player lineup: two singles players and two doubles teams.
“I’m pleased with the fact that we have some new kids, and that we can play a full schedule,” Woelk said.
“It creates a challenge, but yet it’s kind of fun to figure out who is going to slot in where, and whether a couple of those freshmen will be a doubles team or whether they’re going to play singles.”
Woelk said tournament play can be challenging for tennis newcomers because better players are paired with lesser players in the first round.
“It’s always a tough call whether to put a beginner in a singles bracket,” Woelk said. “If we survive those early rounds, then we can learn a lot. I always tell kids at least go out there and give it a battle and learn what you can. It will come in handy down the road.”
Woelk plans consult his seniors first as to whether they want to play singles or doubles, then fill in the lineup from there.
“Last year, Jacob and Dakota ended up playing doubles together, mostly,” he said. “But I have not even talked to them about that yet.”
Woelk said three of his four freshmen have participated in his summer tennis camp.
“Aidan has played some in camps,” Woelk said. “He definitely has some skills. Noah is kind of the same situation. I remember him from camp, and he has some real potential.
“Ethan, I think, is fairly new to the sport. He has played some and is a pretty good athlete, so look for some good things from him. Henry is a fairly raw beginner—pretty much picking up a racket for the first time.”
In addition to having a full lineup for tournaments, Woelk said the larger roster offers an advantage on a daily practices.
“It’s nice to have enough players to run full competitive drills, which we haven’t been able to do,” he said. “With three people, like last year, there’s very little you can do except play and hit against the ball machine. They get lots of repetition, but they don’t get much variety.”
Woelk said of the freshmen arrivals: “The basic raw skills are there. I think they may be better than what we’ve seen for a while.”
The competitive tennis season began March 27 with a tournament at Sacred Heart. After an April 3 meet at Smoky Valley, Hillsboro will host its first home tournament April 5 with a 3 p.m. start at the Sports Complex.
The Trojans will host two additional tournaments, the first one April 17 and then the Central Kansas League tournament April 30.
Woelk said Hesston and Smoky Valley likely will be battling for the league title.