Wor. Prep tennis teams deep with talent this season
(March 24, 2017) Both the Worcester Prep boys’ and girls’ tennis teams are deep with talent and experience this year.
Nine of the 17 Lady Mallards on Coach Cyndee Hudson’s roster are veterans. The eight newcomers are freshmen.
“Eight freshmen is the most we’ve ever had on the team [in one season],” said Hudson, now in her 17th season as coach of the girls’ squad. “Many of them have tournament experience.”
Hudson said the girls are eager to get the season started. They are teachable, they do what the coaches ask and are willing to try new things.
“We’re experienced in several areas. I think we’re talented across the board,” she added. “I’m pleased with the level of play and skills they came in with.”
Top returners include junior Anchita Batra, who will play first or second singles this season, senior Lauren Meoli and sophomore Maya Nateson. Meoli and Nateson will play in the fourth and fifth singles spot.
Filling in the starting singles lineup are freshmen Annika Larsen and Abi Plylar. Larsen currently holds the No. 1 spot for Worcester. Plylar will take the court for third singles.
Senior captains Eva Parks and Stormy McGuiness return to the court for doubles action. The pair have been a team since their freshman year, which Hudson said is very rare.
Typically, girls will start out playing doubles when they are young and inexperienced, then as they progress and spots open up, they move to singles competition.
“We really connect well,” McGuiness said.
“We communicate well and we’re really good friends off of the court, so I feel like we know each other well and we work well together. I’m really excited for our last season,” Parks said. “I feel like since we have the most experience it will help. We can help the other kids with what the coaches want to see and what the opponents will be like and tell them what to expect.”
“I think I’ll be able to give good advice to all the new tennis players and really show them how we work around here,” McGuiness added.
Hudson said the pair have done a great job as captains and “welcoming the new freshmen and showing them how we do things and our expectations.”
Freshmen Mesa Cammack and Saylor McGuiness are new to the team and will play doubles.
“We want to be competitive every match,” Hudson said. “We’re looking forward to having a pretty good season and once we get going it’s fast a furious [with several matches weekly].”
Both the Worcester Prep girls’ and boys’ teams finished the 2016 season with 11-1 records.
The Lady Mallards had won the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference team title for 10 consecutive years, but Saints Peter & Paul captured the award last year. They hope to bring the title back to Berlin this year.
“That was kind of a letdown. I think this year we can take it back,” Parks said. “I think we have a good lineup this year. We’re pretty strong and I’m confident in everybody.”
The boys’ team won its second consecutive ESIAC team title in 2016.
Sixteen of the 18 players on Coach Terry Underkoffler’s roster are veterans. Since preseason began he has seen growth and improvement.
The singles starting lineup, from top to bottom, is strong, Underkoffler said.
“We have a good balance of singles players who push each other and are equal in strength and ability,” said Underkoffler, who has been coaching the boys for three seasons. “There’s not a lot separating one to five, and even six, it’s nice to be able to say that.”
Returning singles players are senior captain Adam Pizza, sophomore Will Todd and junior Brenner Maull.
“I played fourth/fifth singles last year and this year I’m toward the top. I’m very excited. I worked hard for it,” Pizza said. “We have a lot of young kids this year and a lot of them are just starting, but they’re all really athletic so they just need to get the fundamentals of the game down and they’ll be fine.”
Sophomores Colin Miller and Dominic Anthony played mostly doubles last season. This year they will take the court for singles competition. Miller won the ESIAC doubles title with teammate Charlie Pritchard, who graduated. Maull finished runner-up in singles competition. He and Miller were named to the All-ESIAC Team.
Three of the four athletes playing first and second doubles are new to the team.
“I’m anxious to see the guys play other schools. I’m curious to see how the doubles teams play under pressure,” Underkoffler said.
He is glad sophomore newcomers Graham Hammond, Cameron Hill and Matt Wilson have veteran, senior captain Zach Wilson, to guide them.
“I got a little bit of leadership experience last year; I was a captain even though I was injured. Sitting on the sidelines I kind of got to help out the guys,” he said. “Tennis is really a mental game, of course some physical aspects to it too. You have to stay calm and collected and finish out the match.”
This is Wilson’s second year as captain and fourth season on the team. He played doubles his freshman and sophomore year. He only played a few weeks of his junior year before being sidelined with a knee injury.
Wilson, who said his knee is feeling good so far, is currently paired up with Hill for doubles action.
“I hope I make it to the end of the season with no injuries,” he said. “I’m excited to play with a new doubles partner.”
“I’m excited to see how the singles guys play as a group and to see how they play against top competition in the area,” Underkoffler said. “We’ll see how quickly we can get the new doubles players into matches and adjusted.”
“It’s really nice to see this many kids out this year,” Wilson said. “This year I’d say I’ve seen more improvement than I have in past years just in the first week and a half.”