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Connellsville boys tennis team has optimistic expectations

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 8:45 p.m.
Bill Shirley | Daily Courier
Tyler McFadden likely will start the season as the second singles player for the Connellsville tennis team.

The Connellsville boys tennis team has had its share of struggles in recent seasons, but a commitment to improve seems to be evident from the group that will comprise this season's squad.

“They are enthusiastic,” Connellsville coach Bill Ricks said. “They got in touch with me before the season, and they were wanting to know when the courts would open back up.”

Eight of the players on this year's team have varsity experience and many will be projected as starters. Lawrence Becker, Thomas Clark, Tristan Kozel, Tyler McFadden, Jaycob Miller, Dan Starr and Roy Starr comprise a veteran senior group. Junior Orville Strauser is also a returning player.

Clark is projected to play at first singles. McFadden is slotted to fill the second singles position. The rest of the returning players likely will hold down the third singles spot as well as the four positions on the two doubles teams. Because much of the team's experience stems from the senior class, Ricks is hoping that the group can be leaders.

“I'm hoping they can put it together for their senior season,” Ricks said.

Ricks knows that having success in Section 1-AAA ultimately depends on the players.

“I've got returners coming back, and that's not bad,” Ricks said. “But the play has to come from the players. What you put into this sport is what you get out of it.”

That message seems to have sunk in with the players.

“Obviously, we are older now and have a lot more experience,” McFadden said. “We've gone out and practiced by ourselves (prior to the start of the season). Plus more experience and playing time will help us.”

Ricks pointed out that the team is still very much a work in progress.

“We have more than enough to work on, and I'm hoping they can keep an open mind and go out there and listen and learn,” Ricks said.

McFadden noted that basic aspects of the sport like footwork are things that have been stressed in practice, hoping that will translate into success on the court.

“We want to at least make the playoffs, and if it goes well, we'll try to get a win in the first round,” Ricks said.

Ricks, like his players, is anxious for the season to begin.

“I'm excited,” Ricks said. “I've been inside the whole winter, so it's nice to get outside and see the reaction on their faces.”

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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