Like every other team in the state that has high school tennis, the Boonville Pirates tennis team has been patiently waiting for the day to go outside and actually hold a scheduled practice for the first time.
With two weeks inside hitting against the wall and working on footwork, fundamentals and stroke progression, the Pirate netters finally got their wish Monday while braving the 30 degree weather and wind conditions.
But now that the Pirate netters have had a few days to work on their game, head coach Stephanie Green said it’s hard to say where the team will be as far as singles and doubles.
With 14 netters suited out for the 2013 season, Green said six of those players will return with actual court experience.
“We are going to be young,” Green said. “With only two seniors and a hand full of juniors, we are going to be playing a lot of matches with freshmen and sophomores so we would like to break even this spring.”
After finishing 2-10 overall and 0-6 in the North Central Missouri Conference in 2012, Green said the same schools (Kirksville, Hannibal, Moberly and Marshall) will be tough. Fulton will be pretty good, too, Green said.
“The conference will be tough this year,” Green said. “We are going to struggle just because of our youth and inexperience, but it will help us get better. I think we have some athleticism, especially with some of the soccer players coming out. Fundamentally they are already hitting the ball pretty strongly. They also have some idea about the mechanics.”
The Pirate netters will find out soon enough where they stand in the NCMC. After the match Monday against Osage, Boonville will play the top four teams in the conference in a span of two weeks.
Of course that could prove costly with eight of the 14 players with no actual match experience. Nonetheless, Green appeared upbeat knowing that court experience was only going to help her team rather than hurt them.
“With the way the weather has been everybody is pretty much in the same boat,” Green said. “The kids just want to make a good showing in every match. They want to be competitive and grow and get some experience under their belt.”
Although the cupboard might seem a little bare this season, Green will look to no other than Cody Painter, Nathan Green and Jacob McQuitty to lead the Pirates through the toughest of times.
Painter, who played No. 2-3 singles last year for Boonville, will step into the No. 1 position this season. While finishing 2-10 in 2012, Green said Painter has put in a lot of time on his own during the off-season.
“Cody’s strokes look more solid and more comfortable this year,” Green said. “He has been a pretty good leader so far. I think he will get better as the season progresses, especially playing against experienced players.”
Junior Nathan Green will also step into a new position this year. While splitting time at the No. 5-6 slot last year, Green was one of the few positives for the Pirates while finishing 6-6 overall.
Green said it also helped Nathan in that he is ambidextrous. She said that is a huge, huge advantage because when he hits ground strokes he has the advantage of having two forehands.
“Nathan has a backhand as well,” Green said. “He has really worked hard to develop both side of his game.”
Sophomore Jacob McQuitty also returns with experience this season for Boonville. While playing the No. 6-7 position last year, Green said McQuitty is physically and mentally strong. “Jacob is a good leader,” Green said. “He did get some varsity experience last year so that helped.”
The Pirates also have experience returning at the No. 4 and 5 positions. Playing No. 3 JV singles in 2012, Green said senior Kelly Williams has improved his game twofold by taking lessons from former Boonville tennis player Chris Nicholas. “Kelly is another lefty,” Green said. “He also wants to be competitive this year.”
Sophomore Noah Bechtel also picked up valuable experience last year. While playing No. 6 JV singles in 2012, Green said Bechtel will find his niche in singles.
“He has gotten a lot more aggressive and understands the game,” Green said. “He is also good at teaching the new guys the fundamentals.”
Rounding out the final slot in singles for the Pirates this season is sophomore Braden Adams. Green said Adams understands the mechanics of stroke progression but also has great footwork.
Junior Ian Pond could also see some playing time in singles this spring. While playing last year for the Pirates, Green said Pond has a good attitude and is excited about playing tennis.
“Our top three or four are going to have some tough matches with the veteran players but it will give them some valuable experience,” Green said.
Green is also hoping that experience in singles pays off in doubles this season. Although the team has yet to play doubles in practice, Green said the younger players will get a lot of playing experience in doubles.
“Nothing is really set in stone for doubles,” Green said. “We are still doing evaluations so it could be 2-3 matches before we set the teams in doubles.”
Who better to play the No. 1 doubles positions than Painter and Green. Green said with Cody and Nathan having some experience together, that will help them a lot on the court. “Nathan being able to use both hands will help and Cody has good net play so that will balance out,” Green said.
Experience could also prove beneficial at the No. 2 doubles position with McQuitty and Bechtel teaming up again this season. Green said McQuitty and Bechtel know each other well. “Noah plays the net well and Jacob likes to play all over the court,” Green said.
Rounding out the final spot in doubles this spring for the Pirates are Williams and Pond. Green said Williams and Pond both have experience playing together in doubles. “Kelly has decent strokes while Ian is competitive,” Green said.
With so little time on the court this spring, Green said she wants the players to see that they can be successful in the first match against Osage. “I want them to gain some confidence more than anything,” Green said.