KINGMAN, Kan.—With four returning athletes, and three of them doubles players, Kingman High School head tennis coach Seth Roe knows at least one player will have to adjust to the singles game.
The Eagles have only six boys out – the same amount of players it takes to field a full varsity team. But for most of the season, they will only send four athletes to varsity competition.
Senior Nick Meng, a state qualifier one year ago, is expected to play in the No. 1 singles role for the second year in a row. But from there, it gets a little more complicated.
Another senior, Ryan Leroux, has played doubles every year at KHS, and junior Grant Coon and sophomore Connick Roe played doubles together in 2012.
“As a junior, Ryan actually played doubles with a senior," said Roe. "So this year, he doesn’t have a partner. The big question is whether or not Grant or Connick will play together again this year, or whether one of them will be playing No. 2 singles while the other one is playing with Ryan. I’m not sure how that’s going to shake down yet."
The Eagles will get their first test on March 26 at the Wellington Invitational.
Roe says once competition begins, he expects to see good things.
“I have really high expectations for that top four," Roe said. "They all played some over the summer. They’ve all come in this season very focused and have been really working hard. Ryan’s been a doubles player and has played well, but he’s really improved his game over the last two years. Grant and Connick are really improved. We want to be able to compete at a level we haven’t been able to compete at before."
“We play in a very competitive league," said Roe. "Hesston, Smoky Valley, Sterling, Pratt and Hillsboro all have strong tennis programs, but we think that we'll be more competitive this year than we have been for the last three years. We’d like to finish in the top half of the league. If we can do that, we’ll feel really good.”
And while Roe will not play freshmen Jacob Messenger and Kyle Roberts during most of the varsity meets, they will be on the courts for the league meet.
“The freshmen are working out and they’ve already improved. The four other players are really good leaders, and that will pay dividends with the freshmen."
Roe is counting on at least having Meng qualify for state. He was eliminated in the first round at state, but part of that was due to circumstances beyond his control.
“For Nick this year, they key will be his serve," said Roe. "That’s where we want to focus a lot of our time this year. He played really well last year, but he didn’t get a really good draw (at state). Last year at regionals and substate, he got sick, and he had a rough day and subsequently didn’t get the seed at state that we thought he could get."
He also says Leroux, Coon and Connick Roe “absolutely” have a good chance of qualifying for state, but much of that will depend on the strength of the other teams competing at substate.