A young Newark team hopes to follow Collin Brown’s lead this spring.
Ninth-year head coach Rob Hays has nary a senior on his roster, but already has seen commitment and improvement through a 1-2 start.
“Last year, we didn’t win a match and it’s already a lot more enjoyable this year,” Hays said during the Wildcats’ 4-1 loss Wednesday to host Watkins Memorial. “Our top five out of seven and our top three singles all have experience.”
Newark opened with a 5-0 win against rival Zanesville before falling 5-0 to Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division powerhouse Pickerington North.
Brown, a junior, won the first set in this match against Warrior senior Ryan Cash 6-3 at No. 1 singles, lost the second 0-6 but bounced back for a 6-1 victory and Newark’s only win.
“Collin plays at New Albany during the winter and most of the year around,” Hays said. “His overall game is very good, especially his ground strokes. He’s quick, and he’s good from the baseline.”
The Wildcats’ starting lineup against Watkins included sophomores Derek Fritz and Dylan Dalton in the No. 2 and No. 3 singles slots. At No. 1 doubles were sophomore Robert Thomas and junior Jacob Frankenberry, and at No. 2 doubles were sophomores Dan Strong and Dominque Cashdollar.
“The best thing is that we have a lot of committed players,” Hays said. “We have a good core who plays most of the year. They’re improving a lot quicker. They did a lot of open courts and summer conditioning.
“It’s a steady growth and hopefully we’ll keep seeing that. Playing a tough schedule like we do only makes you better. Hopefully, we’ll keep getting better and win even more matches next year.”
The Warriors improved to 3-1 with the win. Junior captain Derek Clear beat Fritz at No. 2 6-2, 6-2, and junior Doug Holland defeated Dalton by the same score at No. 3. In No. 1 doubles, senior captain Drake Addis and freshman Gabe Fornes beat Thomas and Frankenberry 6-2, 6-2. At No. 2 doubles, juniors John Dolder and Zach Greenleee won 6-1, 6-2 against Strong and Cashdollar.
There is no Licking County League schedule for tennis, but Watkins’ new coach Nathan Burd wants to play Licking County teams. The Warriors aren’t locked into their former OCC schedule.
“I guess today and against Granville is kind of our personal LCL,” he said. “We’re basically independent and get to face a lot of teams we don’t normally get to. We’re playing Mid-State, Central Catholic and City League teams.
“A lot of our players, including our top three in singles, are playing varsity for the first time but we’ve been pleasantly surprised. There’s not much separation in talent. They’re all consistent and all play hard.”