By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Last year, the intensity of the boys’ tennis rivalry between Floyd Central and Jeffersonville went up a notch.
The Hoosier Hills Conference rivals met in three ultra-competitive matches in 2012 that left Southern Indiana tennis fans wanting more.
The Red Devils won both regular-season matchups. They defeated the Highlanders in a dual match, 3-2. Then Jeff downed Floyd Central in the first round of the HHC Tournament, 4-1.
But the Highlanders had the last laugh in their third meeting, beating the Red Devils in the Floyd Central Regional final 3-2.
Jeff coach Mark Reilly thinks the rivalry is a positive for both programs.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Reilly said. “Floyd is always ready when they come to regional. They got us last year, so it makes our guys hungry to pay them back this year.
“They have that tradition. When they put on a Floyd Central uniform, they think they are going to do well.”
Floyd Central coach Rick Miller expects the rivalry with Jeff to continue to be fierce this season. The teams could meet three times again in 2013.
“It’s good to see those close matches with Jeff,” Miller said. “It’s always close when we play them. They’ve got a good team and we’ve got a good team. It’s a dogfight every time we play them.”
Floyd Central has only two players back from last year’s starting lineup, but they are both three-year starters. Senior Ryan Plunkett will play one of the singles spots, while fellow senior Jack Stoner will compete at doubles.
Like always, the Highlanders have a deep pool of talented players in their program.
Seniors Harrison Davis and Austin Ivey, who have played primarily for the Floyd Central junior varsity in their high school careers, will get their shots to play at the varsity level this season. Davis and Ivey are expected to play singles.
Junior Chris Collier is planning to play singles, while fellow junior Alec Faxon will compete at doubles. Miller plans to give freshmen Chris Boone and Reed Plunkett some opportunities to play in the starting lineup.
“We’re tickled with the depth of our team,” Miller said. “We have 10 to 11 guys who are playing well in practice. We have lots of talent, but it’s young talent. The guys play hard in practice and they want to win.”
While the Highlanders’ lineup is fairly young, the Red Devils bring back lots of experience.
Jeff junior Austin Hunt is expected to replace last year’s News and Tribune Area Player of the Year Jordy Rigsby at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Sam Coward will move up to two singles after playing two doubles in 2012. Fellow sophomore Brock Winchell will remain at No. 3 singles.
Four returning players are in the mix to fill spots on both doubles teams. They are seniors Justin Padgett and Chase Kayrouz, junior Connor Buntin and sophomore Jack Reilly.
Juniors Logan Giles and Kyle Mayrose, sophomore Kooper Falkenstein and freshman Bradley Cross are possible candidates to play doubles as well.
Despite his team’s intense rivalry with Floyd Central, Coach Reilly says the squad that the Red Devils must be aware of this season is Providence. The Pioneers have five key returning players and will be in the Jeff Sectional this year.
“Providence should be one of the top three teams in the area. Our sectional is going to be tough,” the veteran Jeff coach said. “[The Red Devils] would love to get back to the state tournament, but with Providence being in our sectional and with them having a really strong team, that helps us keep our focus. We’ll play the season and get ready for the tournament. Hopefully, [the Red Devils] will be fired up to play the first day of the sectional.”
Both Floyd Central and Jeff have challenging schedules this season. The Highlanders will play in several tournaments in Central Indiana, where they are expected to go up against state powerhouses like Cathedral, Brebeuf, North Central, Carmel and Zionsville.
“I don’t see anybody on our schedule that’s going to lay down for us,” Miller said. “It’s not an easy road, but that’s how you get better.”
The Red Devils will host two tournaments that will include several top teams from Indiana. Some of those teams in those tourneys are Jasper, Columbus North, Bloomington North, Delta, Zionsville and Greenwood. Jeff also will play in the Jasper Invitational, which features the host Wildcats, Terre Haute North and Castle. Plus the Red Devils’ schedule includes matches with Providence, Silver Creek, New Albany and Center Grove.
“I really feel we have a great schedule as far as the teams we play. We have a lot of top-25 teams on there,” Mark Reilly said.
Both Miller and Coach Reilly say that their teams will have to contend with Columbus East for the HHC Tournament title.
OTHER AREA TEAMS
The Braves have four key players back. Senior Josh Vollstedt will be Borden’s No. 1 singles players. Senior Dylan Scott, junior Elijah Franklin and sophomore Kamden Hurst will play doubles.
Vollstedt’s younger brother, freshman Joseph Vollstedt, will play at either No. 2 or No. 3 singles. Both brothers played in several United States Tennis Association tournaments this summer to get them ready for the 2013 campaign.
“The way our season goes depends on the work ethic, attitude and team togetherness of our players,” Borden coach Cary Ooley said. “They have the basics of tennis now, so they must use those skills while also thinking on their feet. The player who is able to think while under pressure will come out on top in tight matches.”
Borden’s schedule is not easy with matches against Providence, Silver Creek, New Albany and Southern Athletic Conference favorite Lanesville.
Bruce Oldham has returned to his alma mater to coach the Pirates this season. Oldham has seven returning players at his disposal in senior Ben Delaney, juniors Kyle Jackson, Zach Gibson, Chris Bates and Josh Wray and sophomores Tyler Massie and Zach Witten. Delaney, Jackson and Massie are expected to see a lot of time at singles.
Charlestown has three varsity newcomers in sophomores Tyler Trinkle and Austin Smith and freshman Josh Copeland. Oldham says Silver Creek is the favorite to win the Mid-Southern Conference.
“After graduating the top two singles spots, including All-MSC player Chris Braun, this young Pirate squad will be expected to grow quickly,” Oldham said. “While there may be bumps in the road, I know this team will improve tremendously throughout the year. If the players continue to work hard and stay motivated, there is no reason we cannot compete in the MSC and have a successful season.”
Senior doubles player Seth Delbridge will lead a Warriors squad that consists of several sophomores and freshmen. Three sophomores return to the team in Dustin Hurst, Dylan Burton and Kyle Rivera.
The top newcomer to watch is freshman Justin Brown, who is expected to play at No. 1 singles. Other newcomers are sophomore Kyle Swarens and freshmen Bradley Gay, Patrick Fitzgibbon, Cody Rehor, Jack Drake, Logan Cavanaugh and Dawson Dooley.
“We have a young team. We want to win them all, but we’re probably not going to do that,” Christian Academy coach Steve Brown said. “But I think we have a lot of potential for the next year or two.”
Like last year, the Generals will not have a complete team. But coach Steve Welcher thinks he has one of the best players in the area in junior Adam Bryant, who will play at No. 1 singles.
Freshmen Griffith Foley and Ethan Tackett will be Clarksville’s other two singles players. The Generals also have another freshman in Devin Fleming.
“If things go as planned, [Bryant] should be one of the better players in the area,” Welcher said. “He played in a lot of tournaments over the summer, where he played with some of the Floyd Central kids. I think the freshmen will come along.”
The Musketeers return six of their top seven players, led by senior Jordan Gray. Coach Greg Heldman welcomes back juniors Terry Chism, Alex Doebler, Clayton Marshall, Trace Myers and sophomore Grant Newcomb. Heldman says one of his eight freshmen will fill the final spot in the lineup.
Eastern will compete in two tough tournaments, which are the Jeff Classic and the New Albany Invitational. The Musketeers also will play New Albany and fellow MSC member Silver Creek.
“I expect us to be better at competing at all five positions this year,” Heldman said. “We were young last year, so I expect us to handle the momentum swings of competition much better than we did last year. The quality of our opponents has also improved, so we will have to step up our game in order to be more successful this year.”
The Hornets return five veterans to their lineup. Senior Landon Guthrie and sophomore Elijah Weeks will play singles, while seniors Logan Smith and Cameron Hardesty will most likely be the No. 1 doubles tandem. The other returning player is sophomore Luke Davidson.
Junior newcomer Emery Dieterlen is expected to fill one of the singles spots. Other newcomers for the Hornets are Conrad Beyl and Mason Edwards. Coach Brian Consley expects Lanesville and Borden to be the favorites in the SAC.
“I’m hoping to be .500 or above this season,” Consley said. “I think we can compete in the conference possibly.”
Junior Alec Bates and freshman Logan Charbonneau are currently battling for the Bulldogs’ No. 1 singles spot.
As for the doubles spots, juniors Jake Kennard and Tanner Goller are expected to move up to the No. 1 position after playing two doubles a year ago. Junior Nick White and sophomore Jacob Stevens, who both played JV last season, will be the No. 2 doubles squad. Senior Zach Daniel is expected to factor into the lineup.
Coach Bob Dusch expects Floyd Central, Jeffersonville and Columbus East to be the contenders for the HHC Tournament title.
“The good news is we only have one senior in the first seven. That gives us a lot to build on,” Dusch said. “I think we’ll be a formidable team by season’s end.”
The Mustangs bring back five upperclassmen this season in seniors Travis McKim and Dakota Dieterlen and juniors Jake Zimmerman, Logan Miles and Colin Schindler. Freshmen Miles Matthews and Caleb Ellison are expected to be in the lineup several times.
Coach Wayne Davis says New Washington’s schedule is tougher with the addition of a dual match against Jennings County and a tournament at Corydon Central.
“We seem to have a much more competitive nature in practice this year, and that should carry over to our matches,” Davis said. “The freshman class has brought some talent and toughness and I’ll be surprised if a couple of them don’t start at some point. We will be on a learning curve, but I think we’ll end up being a team to contend with.”
Junior No. 1 singles player Will Andres will lead the veteran-laden Pioneers. Other returning players are senior Nolan Carrico, juniors Jacob Quinkert and Patrick McPhillips and sophomore Landon Carrico.
Five Pioneers are battling for two varsity spots in juniors Ryan Day and Spencer Pearson, sophomores Brad Haas and Ben Popson and freshman Ben Arnson.
Coach Scott Gurgol says the strength of Providence’s schedule is above average. The Pioneers’ slate includes dual matches against New Albany, Silver Creek, Jeff and Bloomington North and tough invitationals at Columbus North and Columbus East.
“We’re expecting a lot of wins and not many losses. We want to win the three in-season tournaments on our schedule. We want to earn a top-three district ranking, which may garner a top-30 state ranking,” Gurgol said. “Those are the only goals being discussed between the coaches and players currently. We want to keep our team’s focus on August, and not be looking ahead to October. When the season ends, we will have postseason goals to discuss.”
Seniors Brennan Thompson, Braden McCartney, Anthony Less and Nick Sprinkle will lead an experienced Dragons team. Juniors Jake Steele, Gabe Bauer, Isaac Corum, Court Grangier and Max Moore, sophomore Noah Eckert and freshman Josh Newton will be battling to get into the starting lineup.
Silver Creek’s challenging slate includes Jeff, Floyd Central, New Albany and Providence.
“This is an experienced team ready to make some noise,” coach Robert Briscoe said. “We return six varsity positions from last year’s team. Our goals for this year are to be conference, sectional and regional champions.”