When a team loses a sixth-place finisher at state in high school tennis, more often than not, regression is natural.
For the Manhattan High boys’ tennis team, maintaining a high standard is the goal.
With several talented newcomers joining the ranks and senior Jake Seaton returning after a 10th-place finish at state a season ago, head coach Chuck Kipp expects this team to continue competing at the highest levels.
Helping the cause is an especially high interest in tennis this season. Kipp said the team will be forced to cut some players because of lack of court space.
“At this point, there are about 36 boys out for the tennis team,” Kipp said. “Due to facility restrictions and court space, we will have to cut to about 28.”
Seaton will take over the spot at No. 1 singles vacated by the graduation of Kenton Hallowell. Starting in the No. 2 spot will be senior Dustin Hayes.
“Dustin primarily played doubles last year,” Kipp said. “He took advantage of opportunities to play varsity singles last year in a few tournaments and did very well.”
In doubles play, Kipp expects to start the year pairing Jonathan Turnley with freshman newcomer Kirkland Lambert. Seniors Claib Harris and Sam Hong also return as doubles candidates, among several others.
“The team will benefit this year from the increased number of quality incoming and returning players,” Kipp said. “I predict that Jake and Dustin will qualify for the state tournament. In doubles, I believe at this point Jonathan and Kirkland will be our top doubles team, but there might be some changes due to the dynamics of doubles tennis. We have quite a few players who have the potential to be very competitive in doubles.”
Kipp said his top two singles players aren’t short on talent, but still have areas they can improve upon.
“This year, I feel that our singles players will be strong,” he said. “Both players have some areas which need improvement. Jake is a very intelligent and consistent player, but could be a bit more aggressive. Dustin has excellent strokes as well, but needs to relax and not be too hard on himself.”
Ultimately, Kipp sees the improvement of the doubles pairs as they biggest factor in his team’s chances to compete for the Centennial League title.
“If we can develop strong doubles play, the team has an excellent chance of being at the top of the league,” he said, “as well as qualifying all six players for the state tournament in May.”
The team’s first meet of the season in Topeka was moved from Tuesday to today after inclement weather forced the postponement.