If the Streator High boys tennis team got frequent bus-riding miles instead of frequent flyer miles, the Bulldogs might be able to take a nice postseason vacation.
Last fall, the team found out its home courts were unable to host any matches due to needed repairs. Court resurfacing is on the horizon in the summer, but in the meantime SHS is only able to practice on its courts as the Bulldogs will be forced to load up the bus for their 14 dual matches and four tournaments during the 2018 season.
With a roster of 16 players that includes 13 underclassmen (eight sophomores and five freshmen), Bulldogs coach John Sandoval says playing all away matches this season could be a benefit to his young team.
“What I like is that, even though last fall we found out that we would have to play all of our matches on the road, we are getting the courts resurfaced in the summer,” Sandoval said. “I mean, yeah, that means the kids will be on the road for all of our matches, but that will give us time to talk to them and strategize with them. Especially afterwards: maybe they lost but they got so many first serves in. There are things that we will be able to talk to them about. If you are at home, they take off right when they are done.”
SHS was hit hard by graduation, as seven of last year's top eight players left the program.
One who has returned for the Bulldogs and has the most varsity experience is sophomore Greg Rashid. Rashid will be making the move up from No. 2 singles to No. 1 singles, and Sandoval expects him to do well.
“Greg can go with anyone up there,” Sandoval said. “He is going to run into some of the best kids. He will hold his own. He is very athletic. He knows how to hit the ball well. We are looking forward to him doing well this season.”
Sandoval could see junior Alex Granados play in Rashid’s old spot at No. 2, but he could also team with sophomore Jason Houch at No. 1 doubles. If that is the case, Sandoval might have to shuffle the deck, as they say. Granados playing No. 2 singles could lead to Houch and sophomore Luke Elias forming a doubles partnership. Junior Tristen Geary might see time at No. 2 singles if Granados is playing doubles.
Two freshmen, Max Baker and Nate Beck, are also vying for a place in the doubles lineup, as are Elias and sophomore Alonzo Pereanes.
Even though his team is inexperienced, Sandoval has seen some strengths in his young Bulldogs squad.
“Usually, we have to teach a kid how to hold a racket and on Day 1 go over a lot,” Sandoval said. “These kids are actually pretty good athletically. They can move to the ball. A lot of them play other sports. So that helps.
Freshmen on the Bulldogs roster include Ethan Darrow, Caleb Hawthorne and Tyler Mast. Sophomores out for the team are; Alessandro DeLeon, Jacob Harlan, Demetrius Hendrix and Devin Stratton. Junior Derek Wilkinson rounds out the Bulldogs team and will compete for court time.