WICHITA, Kan.—After winning the state championship last season, the Independent Panthers boys’ tennis team is looking to reload this season in order to get back to the top. The Panthers will have to replace three starters from last season, while three return.
This includes having to replace two-time defending state champion Jake Norman. The junior won titles in each of his first two seasons, but transferred out of Independent earlier this school year.
Independent is coached by Simon Norman. Norman is in his 12th year with the Panthers, and coaches both the boys and girls teams. Under his leadership, Independent reached its biggest accomplishment in boys’ tennis last season: winning the state title.
Facing some holes in its varsity lineup, Independent will look to fill those early, so it can once again be a contender as a top team.
“We lost half the team that won state last year, so we’ve got to see who can work really hard and fill in those spots,” Norman said.
The Panthers know that they will have to work extra hard if they hope to bring home a top-five finish at the state tournament, but the team seems poised to do so.
“We’ve got to make a lot of improvement between now and then. They’re all really good guys, and we can work really hard the next three months and we’ll see what happens,” said Norman.
Other than the state meet, which Independent will host at Riverside in Wichita, the Panthers are also looking forward to competing in larger meets, such as Goddard’s and Salina Central’s, that will give them good practice before their league meet.
“It should be a fun season,” Norman said. “I think we’ve got a bunch of good guys who want to work hard, and that’s what it’s all about.”