At some point in the near future, when winter finally releases its grip, Ottawa boys tennis coach Matt Gross will be able to fit together the talented pieces of this spring's Pirates outdoor court squad.
As it stands now, however, Gross definitely likes what he sees on his 17-man varsity roster, one which is led by a pair of returning seniors — doubles specialist Nathan Meyer and two-time singles state qualifier Jack Marvel.
"It's similar to teams from the past, although it seems like we normally have a couple more guys who are more experienced," said Gross, "so Jack and Nate are going to have to be running the show and leading the charge. ...
"Thankfully we have really good leaders on the team, not just Jack and Nate. Andrew Hancock and Declan McGettigan are also great leaders for us by hustling, by doing what they need to be doing at practice without any question.
"I'm looking forward to getting things jelled in here once we're able to play outside a little bit more."
One thing that is certain is that it will all start with Marvel. Ottawa's top player returns for his senior year at No. 1 singles after consecutive trips to the IHSA State Meet the past two years. He wasn't entirely thrilled with his 2017 regular season, though, and has his eye on a more consistent and even ore successful 2018.
"Jack has a couple matches circled on the schedule already," Gross said. "He's looking to avenge some losses in conference from last year."
The other returnee, Meyer, is a shoo-in to hold down a No. 1 doubles spot. Outside of those two, Gross is watching a number of Pirates to fill out the lineup card.
Sophomore Vadim Cheli seems a possible good fit for a singles spot, junior Logan Olszewski's "steady" play could earn him a singles or a doubles role, while for doubles play along with Meyer the Pirates coach mentioned names such as juniors Ryan Durango, Andrew Hancock, Matt Jackson, Gorge Leon, McGettigan, Tyler Olesen, Jonah Sharp and Max Vargas.
Also competing for court time are senior Bobby Bradish and 11th-graders Kaedon Cronkright, Austin Gayan, Sean Pou and Josh Norsen.
Getting strong play beyond the known quantities at No. 1 singles and doubles could prove to be the difference between a good season and a potential great one for Pirates tennis.
"No. 3 doubles and No. 2 singles are the spots where, boy, if we can just have guys who are steady and competitive, we could do some damage," Gross said. "They're going to have to buy in on getting after it and that they're just as important as everybody else and giving 100 percent effort at all times, and I think we'll be OK ... And normally, the majority of the time we're able to find those guys, so I'm optimistic. There are a lot of guys who want to be in the top eight. I like that.
"Once the weather gets better and we have a little bit more of a consistent schedule, I think (that strong back end of the starting lineup) will come."
After playing all of the 2017 season on the road due to needed court repairs, this spring's Pirates will return home with seven scheduled home meets plus the privilege of hosting an IHSA sectional in mid-May.
Date Opponent/Event Time
3/31 at Warren Invite 8:30 a.m.
4/5 at Geneseo 4:30 p.m.
4/7 at Boylan Quad 8:30 a.m.
4/10 LA SALLE-PERU 4:30 p.m.
4/12 at Sterling 4:30 p.m.
4/16 PRINCETON 4:30 p.m.
4/17 YORKVILLE 4:30 p.m.
4/19 at Morris 4:30 p.m.
4/21 OTTAWA INVITATIONAL 9 a.m.
4/23 DIXON 4:30 p.m.
4/24 at DeKalb 4:30 p.m.
4/26 ROCHELLE 4:30 p.m.
4/28 at Lincoln-Way E. Invite 8 a.m.
5/1 at Pontiac 4:30 p.m.
5/2 at Lincoln-Way E. Quad 4:30 p.m.
5/4 at U-High Invite 2:30 p.m.
5/5 at U-High Invite 8:30 a.m.
5/8 MENDOTA & STREATOR 4:30 p.m.
5/12 at NIB 12 Meet (L-P) 9 a.m.