Five out of the top eight players return for the Pirates
Make no mistake about it, the Boonville Pirates tennis team will be good this season.
While returning five out of the top eight starters from last year and six returning letterwinners, the Pirates could have one of their best seasons in the history of the program under head coach Stephanie Green.
“Let’s just say we have the potential to have the best season finish that we’ve had since I have been coaching,” Green said. “With the new districting we have every opportunity to advance as far as we want to.”
That’s a pretty bold statement, considering the Pirates finished two games under .500 for the 2016 season at 6-8 overall and 2-5 in the NCMC, which was good enough for fourth.
Nonetheless, Green said this year’s team is extremely athletic and very deep. “We have depth all the way down to our 16th player,” Green said. “We also have experience and our freshmen players are very talented. On top of that we are returning four out of the top five players from last year.”
But will that translate into more victories? Green said Boonville should be very competitive with all of the teams in the conference.
“I think the conference will be tough this year,” Green said. “I don’t know if there is a clear cut favorite right now. Marshall is always strong and Hannibal has good athletes and will always been in the mix. Kirksville has a good No. 1 player back and Moberly and Mexico are always very competitive and in the mix in the middle of the rankings. Our goal is to win conference and take our varsity team to state. We also want them to go individually. We just need some match experience with our new players, especially the ones higher up in the lineup.”
In the season opener Monday against Osage, Green said senior Gio Strickland knocked off reigning No. 1 singles player Philip Udinyiwe for that spot. While finishing 5-9 overall and 3-5 in the NCMC at No. 3 singles last year, Green said Strickland has grown immensely in his mental game. “He has always had the athletic ability, now he is in control of his game,” Green said.
Senior Philip Udinyiwe currently stands as the No. 2 player. While finishing 5-5 last year at the No. 1 position, Green said Udinyiwe will compete at the highest level he always does and will make the adjustments in his matches along the way.
Senior Joshua Udinyiwe also returns for the Pirates. While finishing 4-10 last spring at the No. 2 position, Udinyiwe also filled in at the No. 1 position last year at times due to the injury of his brother.
Green said Udinyiwe has developed much stronger physically this year and knows how to play the game. “Joshua has added more strength to his game,” Green said.
Rounding out the No. 4, 5 and 6 singles for Boonville are juniors Luke Rehagen, Gabe Rumbaoa and Kyle Chrisman. Rehagen finished 10-8 at the No. 5 spot last year. As for Rumbaoa, he played No. 4 varsity doubles in 2016. Chrisman, meanwhile, was a member of the Boonville Pirates golf team last spring.
Green said Rehagen has really sped up the pace of his game. “He’s in control of the offensive part of his game,” Green said of Rehagen. “His experience playing with the top three players has brought him up to their level. As for Gabe, he has also stepped up the level of his game because he knows that singles and doubles are a distinctively different game and he has adapted to a singles style of play. Kyle has been a huge asset for us right now. He is powerful and has a lot of strength. He also knows how to play the court. We are strong and deep in singles. There is not a lot of drop off from 1-6. They can all play together and they are very cohesive.”
The same could said for doubles, with Udinyiwes holding down the spot at the No. 1 position.
While finishing 7-7 a year ago, Green said Udinyiwes return having placed second in districts last year and advancing to sectionals. “Philip and Joshua have really changed their style of doubles play,” Green said. “They are so quick and so strong. They have a good shot to make it to state as a doubles team.”
Strickland and Rehagen, meanwhile, will play at the No. 2 slot for the Pirates in doubles. While playing a little bit together last year, Green said Strickland and Rehagen work well together and have the crossover from playing soccer together.
At No. 3 doubles, Green will look to Rumbaoa and Chrisman to hold down that position. Although Rumbaoa and Chrisman will be new to each other, Green said they are both pretty competitive and powerful in their games.
The future also looks bright with freshmen Josh Chrisman and Quin Gentry at the No. 4 spot. Green said although they are freshmen, they have played with the older players and that has made a big difference.
Rounding out the final two positions in doubles will be Kurt Danner and Dylan Bennett at No. 5 and Will Rehagen and Yannick Flier at the No. 6 slot.