With one of their strongest seasons — which culminated in winning the 2015 Great Northern League regular season championship — behind them, the Cheney High boy’s tennis team is getting the new year underway.
The Blackhawks got some play in this last week, March 12, in a jamboree at Moses Lake, where they defeated Moses Lake (5-2) and Ellensburg (6-1) but lost to Othello (4-3).
“There was a solid effort in that first week of play,” boy’s tennis head coach Jesse Erickson said. “There’s a lot we can improve upon, but we also saw a lot of positives.”
The first thing Erickson noted about this year’s team is that it’s “senior heavy” particularly in the singles lineup.
Mason Van Stone returns to the No. 1 singles spot after taking a year off. He went 2-1 in the jamboree with wins over Moses Lake’s Canon Gregoire (6-1), and Ellensburg’s Tommy Hyatt (6-2).
Ryan Axtell at No. 2 singles defeated Moses Lake’s David Hernandez (6-4), Othello’s Jonathan DeLeon (6-3) and Ellensburg’s Johnny Bartlett (6-0).
At No. 3 singles, Brandon Foster went 2-1 with wins against Othello’s Tyler Wagner (6-1) and Ellensburg’s Andrew Hull (6-1). Foster spent most of last season in doubles play.
Shogo Starr, No. 4 singles, went 3-0. Like Foster, Starr spent most of last season in doubles with teammate Adam Passey.
“It’s a great bunch of guys, most of them have played all four years, which is not common,” Erickson said.
Erickson said his seniors have been focusing on attacking the net and knowing when to attack.
“Players also have individual things they need to work on, like Foster and his backhand,” he added.
As for the doubles teams, Luke Huguenin and Jordan Kauwe, at No. 1 doubles, were 0-3.
Passey and Hunter Pohl, at No. 2 doubles, and Dirk Ray and Aleskandr Chernega, No. 3 doubles, were 2-1.
Erickson said there may be some shifting in pairings in doubles in the coming weeks. He noted Huguenin and Kauwe will likely stay in the No. 1 doubles spot.
“Their returns have been solid, but there are things they need to work on,” Erickson said. “Their shots are a little rusty but that will get better with more match play.”
Although the majority of the varsity lineup is made up of seniors, Erickson said there are some sophomores who will get some varsity experience during the season.
“With the heavy dose of seniors, it’s nice to see some sophomores stepping up and working hard,” Erickson said.
Cheney played Greater Spokane League’s Ferris in a nonleague dual, March 15. They host Northeast A League’s Medical Lake, March 17, and GSL’s Shadle Park, March 22. After nonleague matches against Lakeside (March 24) North Central (March 30) and Deer Park (March 31), they open GNL play against East Valley, April 12.
“We’ve got a good shot of repeating (district title),” Erickson said. “With these early matches, we’re preparing ourselves as much as we can for league. I’m expecting some really close matches against Clarkston and Pullman.”