Owls have top two players returning
Marshall head boys' tennis coach Ann Lewis took over a strong program last year, and "it went better than I could have imagined."
Despite returning only three of the top six players who led the Owls to a team-record 19 straight wins before falling to Barstow in the sectional round of the playoffs in 2015, Lewis' first season as a coach -- of the school for which she played -- resulted in an 18-2 campaign with another NCMC Tournament championship and a berth in the state quarterfinals.
The scenario is much the same this year, with three singles starters back -- and little experience otherwise. Fortunately, Marshall brings back its top two players: seniors Isaac Summers and Jalal Alhamzawi, the latter unbeaten in 23 singles matches a year ago.
Other than senior Will Raines, who played at No. 6 last season, the rest of the starters will have to come from the ranks of doubles players -- who among them have 23 varsity matches under their belts.
"All of them have minimal singles experience," said Lewis. Trial by fire: " It's kind of going to be."
Summers is the veteran leader, beginning his fourth year as a starter -- mostly at No. 1.
"They kind of look up to him," Lewis said. "There is a presence."
Alhamzawi is pushing Summers for the top spot, Lewis seeing his potential to reach the state tournament.
"He has such a talent," Lewis declared. "He picks it up when he has great competition."
Among the candidates to break into the top six are three returning doubles starters: junior Zach Baker and seniors Hunter Repp and Luke Jackson. Sophomore Wyatt Repp and Francisco Camacho are also hoping to crack the line-up.
Vying for doubles slots are senior novices Gilberto Tapia, Dumas Zecena and Phillip Black -- along with freshmen Gabe Myers and Broderick Crawford. Senior Connor Dunlap and freshmen Sam Betz and Luke Miles also hope to work themselves into the mix.
"They're just starting out, but they're picking it up quickly," Lewis said. "They've been working a ton on doubles in practice."
Cold weather delayed the start of the ladder tournament last week, so not all the slots are yet assigned. But no matter who takes the court, its done with the knowledge that the goals are high.
"They understand the expectations of the program," Lewis remarked. "They know they have to step it up to be successful."
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org