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For the ninth consecutive season, Jamestown is likely to reign at the top of the Bay Rivers District as the Eagles look to improve upon their 92-match district win streak.
Jamestown, much to the disappointment of other teams in the Bay Rivers District, returns many of the key players who helped the Eagles reach the Group 4A state tournament last year.
With so much returning ability, it seems unlikely for another team to usurp the district crown from the Eagles.
If any team is capable of knocking off Jamestown, York has the best odds to spring the upset. The Falcons return a veteran lineup that has proven an ability to play against top-level talent in the region.
Behind York, the likes of Grafton, Lafayette and Tabb will make up the middle tier of the Bay Rivers District with talent scattered throughout the collective rosters.
Finally, Bruton and Warhill will likely bring up the rear in the district this season as both teams look to rebound from rebuilding years in 2015.
Below are previews for every Historic Triangle team playing in the Bay Rivers District:
Head Coach: James Barr
2016 Classification: 2A Conference 33
2015 Record: 3-12
Players to Watch: Ian Sadler (junior), Daanish Fiaz (senior), Joey Morrow (senior), Jason Phost (senior)
Season Outlook: After a disappointing 3-12 rebuilding season, Barr said this year’s team will not be “that great, but better than last year.” The biggest issue for the Panthers last year was inexperience, with only one starter having first-team tennis experience. This year is different, with Bruton’s top-four players having at least a year of starting experience under their belts. Sadler returns to lead the team in singles, while Fiaz is filling in as Bruton’s No. 2 while senior Dylan Shannon recovers from a broken hip. Once Shannon returns, he will be slotted into the starting lineup and will provide a boost to the Panthers. While Barr said this year will have its share of struggles, he expects the Panthers to reach the Group 2A East tournament.
Head Coach: Bob Nealy
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 19
2015 Record: 10-5
Players to Watch: Zeke Tal (senior), Nir Diskin (junior), Fred Choi (freshman), Steven Petit (freshman), Brandon Bomboy (freshman)
Season Outlook: Grafton came up one match shy from reaching the Group 4A state tournament, falling 5-0 to Midlothian. While the Clippers will need to replace seniors Daniel Kang and Kevin Peng, Tal will hold down the top singles position this season after playing at No. 3 last year. Outside of Grafton’s No. 2, Diskin, a junior, the Clippers are inundated with youth. Nealy said Grafton has seven freshmen on this year’s team, which includes the bottom half of his singles lineup. While Nealy said his players are committed and have shown some offseason growth, he admits inexperience may be difficult to overcome this year. In spite of this, Nealy is hoping for Grafton to finish second in Conference 18 behind Jamestown and reach the regional tournament for the third consecutive year.
Head Coach: Bob Artis
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 19
2015 Record: 16-3
Players to Watch: Grayson DeBerry (junior), Albon Yowell (sophomore), Brad Mahaffey (senior), Daniel Kruger (sophomore)
Season Outlook: Jamestown suffered a season-ending loss to E.C. Glass in the Group 4A state semifinal round, but should be in a position to reach the state tournament again this year with many key players returning for the Eagles. DeBerry, Jamestown’s No. 1 singles player from last season, returns and has had a solid offseason of training. Also returning are Yowell and Mahaffey, who provide solidity to the top half of Jamestown’s lineup. Kruger, who missed last season with an injury, is expected to jump into the starting lineup at No. 4 now that he is healthy. With a 92-match Bay Rivers District win streak, the Eagles are vying to be the first program in district history to win 10 consecutive district titles. Artis said he thinks Jamestown will once again be formidable and should have a solid chance to reach the state tournament.
Head Coach: Archie Jefferson
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2015 Record: 6-7
Players to Watch: Griffin Hurt (senior), Jacob Clark (senior), Griffin Schobel (senior), Jacob Eck (senior)
Season Outlook: Jefferson, in his second year with Lafayette’s boys tennis team, will have a highly experienced starting lineup with which to work. The Rams return their top two singles players from last season, Hurt and Clark, both of whom are now seniors. Hurt, who jumped up to No. 1 last year after playing No. 5 the prior season, will be more prepared to hang with some of the top district players. With Schobel and Eck providing additional depth in the starting singles lineup, the Rams will have one of the more seasoned rosters in the Bay Rivers District. Perhaps the biggest question mark for Lafayette is how the Rams will handle the move up to Group 4A this year. While the Rams should be competitive in regular season district games, it remains to be seen how far the Rams can go in the postseason.
Head Coach: Robbie Carmines
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2015 Record: 6-6
Players to Watch: Jimmy Qing (senior), Robin Bai (senior), Daniel Drees (senior)
Season Outlook: Coming off a 6-6 season and a loss to Jamestown in the Conference 19 semifinals, Tabb will be looking to take a step up after dropping to Group 3A from Group 4A. The Tigers return Qing, their top singles player from last season, and Bai, who played No. 3 last year. While Qing and Bai will provide stability at the top of Tabb’s lineup, there is some inconsistency toward the bottom half of the singles roster. After playing No. 6 last season, Drees will see an increased role in the singles lineup. After Drees, however, there is some uncertainty as to who will step up and provide some depth for the Tigers. Tabb should have a chance at a regional berth if younger players can come in and contribute early.
Head Coach: Bob Hyatt
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 25
2015 Record: 3-7
Players to Watch: Jackson Cummins (senior), Bruce Pauls (senior), Cooper Gravel (sophomore), Brian Startzer (junior)
Season Outlook: With five returning players from last season, three of whom are seniors, Hyatt referred to the Lions as “seasoned.” With Cummins returning as Warhill’s top singles player and Pauls moving up to No. 2 after playing No. 3 last season, the Lions should have a balanced singles roster. However, Warhill’s cupboard is pretty bare, with only eight total players on the roster, two of which are completely new to the sport. Should injury or performance concerns arise for the Lions, Hyatt will have very few places to turn for a solid replacement. If everyone remains healthy, Hyatt said he thinks the Lions can put together a winning season.
Head Coach: Justin Keyes
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2015 Record: 12-4
Players to Watch: Josh McFadden (senior), Walter Buck (junior), Erik Moulton (junior), Denis Liu (senior)
Season Outlook: York returns the bulk of a lineup that led the Falcons to a runner-up finish in Conference 25 last season. The Falcons return four starters from last season, including top players McFadden, Buck and Moulton. With the top four spots on the singles roster identical to last season, Keyes said the Falcons are in a good position from an experience standpoint. One potential weakness could come at the bottom two singles spots, where York will be breaking in two less experienced players after graduating David Mollenkamp and Muhammad Ahmed. With so much returning talent toward the top of the lineup, York should be in a position to claim one of the top spots in the Bay Rivers District.