JOHNSONBURG— The Johnsonburg boys tennis team struggled in the win department last year, with a lack of depth in the starting lineup playing a key role in their on-court troubles.
This year, however, the blue-and-gold are revamped and reloaded, and with four returning seniors and a plethora of fresh blood joining the squad, the Rams look to make up loss ground and put together a winning team for the 2017 season.
Last spring, Johnsonburg possessed a six-man roster, which barely allowed them to fill starting spots in both singles and doubles competition. This year, however, the Rams will be sporting a 12-man roster, and as head coach Anna Chelgreen notes, the added additions will pay dividends for her team’s success and progress this spring.
“This year, we have a roster of 12, which is great news for us,” Chelgreen said. “It brings flexibility with positions, even if that means swapping out a particular player as needed or if someone goes home sick we don’t have to forfeit a spot.”
Of particular note is the senior nucleus Chelgreen will have at her disposal. Louie Karellas, Theo Schield, Trey Schneider, and Henry Toncich all saw significant varsity time for the Rams last year, and will be called upon to carry the bulk of the team’s load this season.
However, Chelgreen still hasn’t committed to a final line-up, and though her four seniors will certainly play a role on both the singles’ and doubles’ positions, some of the newer players may see more time on the varsity squad than initially assumed.
“My returning seniors really stand out to me- I expect to see big improvements from Henry, Theo, Louie, and Trey, both in singles and doubles action,” Chelgreen said. “I haven’t decided a line-up quite yet. We have a couple players who really stick out, and a few more that all seem to play at the same level.
“I’d love to improve on our record from last year, but I’d also like to see these kids come into their own as players. Four of our six from last year are back as seniors this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they play out against each other. Many of our playoffs go back and forth, so I see a lot of variety coming our way in each position. We have five freshmen and a sophomore new this year who show a lot of promise for coming seasons, too.”
Of the 12 players on her roster, seven of them will be starting their first stint as Ram netters.
The freshmen class of Dan Dillinger, Scott Lewis, Kolton Mehalko, Mason Milliard, and Scott Sallack will provide a shot of new blood to Johnsonburg’s program, and if any one of them gains varsity experience this spring, the potential for future top-seeded teams could be a possibility.
Nick Bliss joins the team as the Rams’ sole sophomore, while Nick Simon and Vince Cristini join Johnsonburg’s squad for the first time as seniors.
In the end, however, the team’s main prerogative is to help and improve each other game by game, and with this mentality forefront and center in her team’s mindset, Chelgreen expects good things to follow for Johnsonburg come this season.
“We have a great group of guys this year,” Chelgreen said. “The seniors are stepping up their game and being excellent mentors to the younger and newer players. Everyone is encouraging while being competitive, which I like to see. They have a great overall attitude and I’m really looking forward to a great, fun season.”
The Rams will officially start their season Tuesday afternoon when they play host to Bradford.
Seniors: Vince Cristini, Louie Karellas, Theo Schield, Trey Schneider, Nick Simon, Henry Toncich. Sophomore: Nick Bliss. Freshmen: Dan Dillinger, Scott Lewis, Kolton Mehalko, Mason Milliard, Scott Sallack.