The first matches hadn’t started yet, but first-year McCutcheon boys tennis head coach Jordin Blades could see a look of defeat among her players.
It was unacceptable, but not entirely unexpected for a program that has struggled to find wins in recent seasons.
But as the season progressed, the attitude picked up. Wins started accumulating, and now the Mavericks enter Wednesday’s sectional opener a confident bunch.
“For the seniors, winning was something that we needed for our confidence,” said Rodney Manny, one of five McCutcheon seniors. “At the end of the year, it is a lot better when you see those wins.”
McCutcheon is 9-12 and won its own invitational and the Rossville Invitational this season.
“We checked in the school and the last trophy was from 2007, so it was really awesome to win two invitationals this year,” Blades said. “The teams we were beating were the caliber of teams that will be in our conference (North Central Conference) next year.”
Foreign exchange student Pau Amo proved to be the best player, but because he was overwhelmed by adjusting to a new culture, he was shifted from No. 1 singles to No. 1 doubles, teaming with Manny. Once Amo and Manny partnered up, they went 11-4 at the top doubles spot.
Senior Jacob Kaminski inherited the top singles spot and sophomore Ryan Howard, who spent all of last season at No. 1, filled in the No. 2 spot.
The result was better results at both positions. Kaminski won two matches in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference tournament. Howard has thrived in the No. 2 spot and uses the setbacks as learning experiences.
“We play a lot of really tough schools and we just have to play our best,” Howard said. “You learn a lot more from your losses than your wins. We definitely learned a lot.”
The Mavericks open postseason play against a Central Catholic team it beat 5-0 last week. Beating the Knights again would give McCutcheon double-digit victories just a season removed from going 2-13.
Whether or not it results in the program’s first sectional title remains to be seen. But it’s been a season seniors Manny, Kaminski, Amo, Zach Dismore and Austin Ashcraft can take pride in.
“We had great senior leadership this year,” Blades said. “I am going to miss this group of seniors. When you compare last year to this year, a lot of that has to do with our senior leadership.”