New coach, small team

First-year boys’ tennis coach Bob Woelk (left) is preparing his roster of three players, each a returning letter-winner, for a more competitive season. Standing with Woelk are Jacob Isaac, Dakota Klein and Dylan Wiens.
First-year boys’ tennis coach Bob Woelk (left) is preparing his roster of three players, each a returning letter-winner, for a more competitive season. Standing with Woelk are Jacob Isaac, Dakota Klein and Dylan Wiens.
The Hillsboro boys’ tennis program returns its entire player roster from a year ago.

That’s good news for first-year coach Bob Woelk, who is adding boys’ tennis to his coaching resume this year, having coached the girls’ program for several seasons.

But there is a catch. The roster has three players.

“The good news is all three of them are experienced players, so I’m not starting from scratch,” Woelk said. “The bad news is, of course, that there are only three of them, which does not a team make.”

A full lineup for most competitions requires six players.

“Honestly, it’s a little bit embarrassing to have to go these meets where you’re supposed to have six people and say we only have three people,” he admitted.

Aside from losing the opportunity to realistically compete for team honors, three players makes lineup choices more challenging.

“Three is not a good configuration because that gives us the option of only one singles (entry) and one doubles,” Woelk said. “Or, if we do two singles, then somebody stays home—and that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

It isn’t like Woelk didn’t try to expand his roster prior to the season.

“I recruited like Bill Self,” he said. “I was on the road, I was working hard. I thought I had seven or eight (players), but then they all turned on me for various reasons.

“So here we are with our three, and we’re going to do the best we can with three,” he said.

Different strengths

The three—Jacob Isaac, Dakota Klein and Dylan Wiens—each bring a different strength to their game.

“All three are juniors, but Jacob Isaac is the best pure hitter on the team—as far as a good ground stroke, he’s the guy,” Woelk said. “In his case, what we need to improve is his quickness to the ball. But he’s a pretty good hitter and pretty good server.”

For much of last season, Isaac teamed with Klein as doubles partners.

“Dakota is really improved since I first saw him as a freshman,” Woelk said. “I helped run some of the meets in the spring and I saw them play.

“He has potential to be a pretty good singles player, but he’s played mostly doubles. We’ll kind of see where that goes.”

Woelk said Klein is the smartest player on the team in terms of seeing the court well.

“He can see what shot comes up next,” Woelk said. “A lot of players at this level are let’s hit the ball back and good things will happen,” he said. “I’ve seen him work the court pretty well and try to get somebody in trouble on the other side. He’s a little bit more of a chess player kind of opponent.”

Wiens’ strength is his quickness to the ball.

“He can cover the court,” Woelk said. “We need to work on especially his backhand. He doesn’t have a lot of athletic experience—actually, none of the three do other than tennis.

“But Dylan’s the guy who hustles to every ball. We’re working on the technical aspects of his game.”

Lineup strategy

Woelk hasn’t settled on a lineup yet, but he’s looking to practice results as key to his decisions.

“My plan is that the player who comes out on top gets to choose,” Woelk said. “If he wants to play singles, the other two will play doubles. If he wants to play doubles, then the other person will play singles.”

Regardless of the lineup, the Trojans will face stiff competition during the year.

“It’s a gentleman’s agreement when you play, if you only have one singles player you play him at No. 1. If it’s a doubles team, you play it at No. 1. Realistically, as singles players, they probably should be playing No. 2 singles.”

Woelk said he likes the effort his guys have invested in these early practices.

“Practices have been good, we get a lot of reps,” he said. “We don’t have to practice for two or two and a half hours. Conditioning will be more of a natural result of three people doing drills.”

Practicing with only three players has an unexpected downside, too.

“One thing that really slows us down is picking up balls,” Woelk said. “It sounds like a minor thing, but every time we run a drill, we take five minutes picking up balls because there’s only four of us to pick up balls.

“That offsets the huge number of reps a bit.”

Scheduling

Hillsboro’s small roster has already affected the schedule. Woelk said two of his three players will be participating at a TSA event on opening day.

“I’m not going to go to Conway Springs with one player,” he said. “But that may be OK, because if we play a junior varsity meet at Hesston, we still get our allotted number (of competitions).”

Hillsboro will play its first tournament of the season April 4 at Linds­borg, then host the Hillsboro Invita­tional two days later at the Sports Complex. Matches are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.