ST. MARYS— The St. Marys boys tennis team had much to celebrate last year, as No. 1 singles competitor Jordan Romain won his second consecutive District 9 Class AA singles championship and become only the second Dutchman in school history to win two titles in their career.
This year, however, St. Marys will be looking a little bit smaller and a little more green when they hit the courts, as the Dutch were hit by the graduation epidemic heavily at the end of the 2016 season.
Having lost Romain and three other seniors, including No. 2 and 3 singles competitors Connor Dalessandro and Dawson Lion, to graduation last year, the Flying Dutchmen come into the spring with only an eight-man roster.
As head coach David Lion notes, the small numbers and general youth of the team makes deciding top spots on both singles and doubles teams a more difficult process. However, Lion remains optimistic about the year, and sees potential in his up-and-coming lineup.
“We have a young team, that be said, we show a lot of promise,” Lion said. “It is really too early to say who will fill these spots. We will be figuring things out in the coming weeks. But we do have a great group of boys that are eager to learn.”
Lion, who is in his second year as head coach of the St. Marys program, may have some concerns with the loss of his top players. Luckily, however, several of his underclassmen received significant playing time with the Dutch’s varsity squad, which could assuage some of the uncertainties surrounding the team.
Sophomores Adam Snyder and Cody Shaberl teamed many times as the Dutchmen’s No. 2 doubles team as freshmen last year and were able to compete in the District 9 Class AA Doubles championship against eventual champion Brockway, lending credible experience to the depleted St. Marys lineup.
Junior Mike Rusciolelli and sophomore Joey Lewis also saw significant amounts of varsity time and can bring their acquired skills to the courts for the Dutchmen as well.
St. Marys carries one sole senior on its roster in Aaron Fox, while the remaining three players — Zach Hart, Kyle Gardner, and Tyler Henry — are all freshmen.
In some ways, the 2017 season looks to be one more focused on rebuilding and improving for the long run rather than for winning championships in the immediate future.
However, the St. Marys squad look to embrace this seasonal goal, and as Lion says, making improvements day-by-day will pay dividends for the Dutchmen in seasons to come.
“The time we have been together so far has led to a lot of progress,” Lion said. “Even though the weather hasn’t cooperated, we are making the most of our practices. We hope to improve a little every day, play as a team, represent our school with Dutch pride, and most of all, have fun.”
St. Marys opens the season Thursday at Bradford weather permitting, while their first home match will be played April 3 against Clearfield.
Senior: Aaron Fox. Junior: Mike Rusciolelli Sophomores: Adam Snyder, Cody Shaberl, Joey Lewis Freshmen: Zach Hart, Kyle Gardner, Tyler Henry.