Following a favorable state run last season, the Fenwick boys tennis team lost several players to graduation, but this year’s squad has a solid mix of experience and young talent to keep things on an even keel.
With a big senior presence in 2010, the Friars went 12-4, finished second in the always competitive Catholic League as well as the Oak Park Sectional, and tied for 29th at the IHSA State Tournament. Matching these feats this season partly falls onto the shoulders of sole singles returners Jack Sloan and Brian Hickey. Sloan, a senior, and the junior Hickey will be stationed at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively.
“[Jack and Brian] have both played challenging off-season tournament schedules with good results,” said Fenwick head coach Gerard Sullivan. “They are hard workers, even keeled and great leaders by example.”
Sullivan also has three other players with tournament experience on this year’s team in the Three Jacks — Jack Gallo, Jack Carey and Jack Ryan.
“Although these three won’t fill the seniors’ shoes right off, they have more tournament experience and will adjust quickly to varsity competition,” said Sullivan, who added that one of the three Jacks will likely take the No. 3 singles spot for conference play, while the others find spots in doubles action.
Others that will likely factor into the doubles mix include Conor Johnson, Dan Brooks, James Pill, Lucas Olson, Matt Nolan, Sid Kusuma, Mike Krug and Austin Nelson, who played doubles on the sophomore team last season. John and Brooks, both seniors, return after playing No. 3 doubles last season.
“I have a big, spirited group of potentially good doubles players,” said Sullivan. “They are a long way from being strong pairs, but between hard work and competing with each other, I think two or three winning tandems will emerge.”
The Friars weren’t the only team in the Catholic League to lose the bulk of its players to graduation last season. Loyola and St. Ignatius had some key players graduate as well, and yet both have a strong young group up on varsity this season.
Still, Sullivan is optimistic his team can contend for the title.
“I believe we will be Top 3 at every position, and first or second at a couple,” he said. “We will be come-from-behind contenders in our conference.”
Fenwick begins the season at rival OPRF on March 22 (3:30 p.m.). The Friars will return to OPRF on April 2 for the Rudy Witsman Invitational.