EATON — After a year off the court due to the cancellation of the 2020 season, Eaton boys tennis will look to three seniors to lead the team who were sophomores last time they played.
“Our 2019 team went 8-8 overall, and we tied for fourth in SWBL with a 2-4 record,” Eaton coach John Hitchcock said. “Unfortunately, that team consisted of three seniors at the top of the lineup. So for 2020 we were really gearing up for a rebuilding year and hoping to compete the best we could.”
He added he feels terrible for athletes who missed a season’s worth of growth, development and experience.
“Historically at Eaton, the majority of kids that choose to play tennis are playing the sport for the first time as freshman. And if you’re lucky, you hope the kid sticks around for all four years because it’s when they are juniors and seniors that you really see them shape themselves into tennis players,” he said. “So not having a season, especially when you’re rebuilding is a real blow. Now, this goes without saying, but everyone was universally impacted, so we all are in the same boat, so to speak. It might sound odd to say that’s ‘fair’ but it did keep everyone on a level playing field.”
The returning seniors for this year’s squad include Dawson Brubaker, Kendale Hamilton, Ethan Pence.
Brubaker and Hamilton made up Eaton’s second doubles team in 2019, picking up five wins.
“At the time, they were sophomores and starting on varsity for the first time, so they tended to play up to expectations,” Hitchcock said.
Returning junior Henry Kochensparger, alongside Pence, spent most of 2019 on the junior varsity team.
“This season, all four of the aforementioned are expected to be the heart and soul of the team,” Hitchcock said. “Henry really has improved his game and will certainly be in contention for the top spot on the team.”
Newcomers for the Eagles include sophomore Bryant Hauser and freshmen Charles Kochensparger, Sophie Kochensparger and Jude Minton
“Bryant would have made varsity in 2020 and brings some tennis experience with him,” Hitchcock said.
He added that, keeping in tradition with Eaton’s girls tennis, the boy’s will also have three siblings on the roster.
“Twins, Charles and Sophie Kochensparger, join older brother Henry and actually bring some decent tennis skills that will more than likely allow them to contribute on varsity right away,” he said. “The Kochensparger kids have participated in the Eaton summer tennis camps for several years and have a good foundation from that.”
Hitchcock added that Minton brings a great attitude and willingness to learn that will certainly benefit him down the road.
Regarding expectations for his team, Hitchcock said it is difficult to say without having a 2020 season to go off.
“Our schedule is challenging but not daunting. I always hope to compete well against schools that have similar characteristics and demographics to us,” he said. “In SWBL, I believe Oakwood will be the frontrunner. I think if we could be in the top half that would be a step in the right direction.
“If nothing else, it’s just going to feel good to be beside these kids as they compete on our brand new courts. You sense an appreciation already from the kids who missed out last year,” he said. “They have a slightly different perspective from athletes that got their season. That helps motivate me to give them the best experience and chance I can.”
Eaton boys tennis will take their new court for the first time against Dixie on Monday, April 5, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles