Sikeston tennis team improves on numbers, hoping to cure inexperience
SIKESTON -- After a frustrating 2012 campaign where they were forced to deal with an ever-shrinking roster, the Sikeston Bulldogs tennis team has reason for renewed optimism as they prepare for the start of a new season.
That's because a team that featured only eight members when last year concluded will boast a healthy 15-man roster when the regular season kicks off next week.
"It is good just to see the number of team members increase from last season," Sikeston head coach Russ Dial said. "We've got a lot to cover in a short period of time, but everyone is working hard in preparation of our first match.
"The guys are looking forward to it and I think they will be ready for the experience."
Experience is one thing the Bulldogs will be short on early in the season as they look to replace their top two players from last year, Brandon Goodwin and Josh Bill.
As a doubles team, Goodwin and Bill closed out their senior campaigns by narrowly missing out on a trip to sectionals after a solid performance in the Class 1, District 1 Tournament.
Filling the void of veteran leadership will be the four remaining holdovers from last year's squad, senior Jimmy Hines, junior Wade Gadberry and sophomores Layton Jones and Christian Rehder.
Jones and Hines are the only two that were true varsity starters last year, but both Gadberry and Rehder got some playing time on the varsity level as well due to the squad's low numbers.
When the two weren't helping out the varsity squad they were earning valuable experience as members of the junior varsity team.
Besides those four veterans, Dial is excited about the 11 newcomers even if their experience is limited.
"We have a junior who had played with another school out of Kentucky and the remaining 10 are very raw in their tennis abilities," Dial said. "But they are showing a great interest in learning the mechanical and tactical skills required in the mastery of the game.
"We have four freshman, four sophomores, and two juniors out of this new group, all showing some potential for future success."
Along with the difficulties that come with being a young, inexperienced squad comes another challenge as the Bulldogs will see a rise in the level of competition this year when they make the jump from Class 1 to Class 2.
Dial said a big factor in his team's success will be getting to know the area competition as well as overcoming any growing pains the season might bring.
"I think a good understanding of the tennis cultures of our opponents in the region will not only determine how strong we start, but also how strong we finish," Dial said. "Discouragement in our abilities early on due to the lack of our team's overall experience will be the hurdle we must clear.
"It is challenging for young players new to the game to realize success doesn't come overnight."
Sikeston will kick off its season March 19 when it host Marion at 4 p.m.