CHESANING — The goals are the same as they always are for the Chesaning tennis team.
Win the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title. Win its regional, then see what happens at the state tournament.
But unlike previous years, when Jarrett Kelley and Joshua Wirt were clearly the top two players on the team, coach Dave Gaspar says his talent is a little more evenly distributed this season. And that could be a good sign.
Among his newcomers are Ethan Gray, a senior who went out for tennis for the first time and is starting at No. 3 singles. There’s also senior Jordan Rodriguez, who was the runner-up at 112 pounds in Division 3 wrestling last season. He’s playing at No. 4 doubles.
The Indians are reaping the benefits of having a strong program and of getting quality athletes to come out as well
How that works, of course, will play out over the course of the season.
Gaspar, who earned his 200th career victory last month, has strong numbers going into his 20th season with the Indians.
“I’ve got nine seniors on varsity, and 22 kids out for the team, the most in nine years,” he said. “If we could find another school with a JV team, we could probably play with them. Everything’s going good. I’m really happy with it.”
Replacing Kelley and Wirt are Leslie Agnew and team captain Kyle Rolfe, who played at No. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively, last season.
Rolfe says teamwork will be a key.
“We have a lot of young kids come out and some older kids,” he said. “Bringing them together as a team is going to be really important. Functioning as a team is definitely going to lead to more wins, and that (more wins) is the goal for this year.”
Agnew, a junior, is ready for the challenge of playing at No. 1 singles.
“Right now, it’s going pretty good,” he said. “I’m 1-1 right now, but I think I can do pretty well this year.”
Agnew said he hit the ball often with Kelley last season.
“I would come out here (to the Chesaning tennis courts) and we would play and have fun hitting it back and forth.
“It’s definitely a good feeling (to move to No. 1 singles),” he added. “I’m happy I was chosen to play No. 1 singles, and I feel I can do pretty well and show my team I have what it takes.”
The test will come in regionals, where the Indians are a perennial contender along with Essexville Garber, Frankenmuth and Saginaw Nouvel.
Gaspar hopes his team’s overall raised talent level will serve Chesaning well both in the regional and at the state meet in mid-October.
“We have a lot of good athletes in the program this year,” Rolfe said. “A couple who were on JV last year are on the varsity and are really helping us out.”
Jack Skaryd, a senior who is teamed with Nolan Meyer for the second year in a row, is expecting big things as well.
“We’ve got a few hard matches out of the way already,” he said. “The season should be good for me and my partner and my team as well. Now that the season’s started, we got most of the hard practices out of the way, and we should be fine.”
Rolfe is even more direct.
“Our goal is to win the regional and go as far as we can at states,” he said. “We’ve got a good team. It’s a matter of doing it.”