The Shoreham-Wading River High School boys tennis team enters the year as a seasoned side with eager newcomers ready to push their upperclassmen.
Numbers are up — the Wildcats could boast 14 players — thanks to a strong junior varsity squad that produces good tennis players.
In fact, coach Rich Muller noticed something in practice on Friday.
“Some of the seniors are looking over their shoulder a little bit and they appreciate that these ninth-graders are really pushing for a spot,” he said. “They’re eager. They had to step up their game a little bit, not just go through the motions. That’s been positive. I think we’re going to be in good shape and be in matches.”
Muller has plenty of reasons to be positive, particularly because of his four singles players.
He hasn’t settled on a No. 1 singles player because his two top athletes — senior Nick Dow and junior John Basile — are so close.
“I haven’t had that one v one in a while,” he said. “That’s a positive thing.
“I can go 1-2 or 2-1. They practice against each other. That’s the cream of the crop.”
Muller noted that Basile usually was the last one off the court last year “because his matches were so long.”
“He’s come into his own,” he added. “He’s learned how to win.”
Dow is an aggressive player, Muller said, “going for the big point and that hurt him.”
“He’s learned patience and become a leader,” the coach added.
Sophomore Ryan Burman Classen, who joined the varsity team late last season, is slated for third singles.
“I’m not too worried,” Muller said. “Ryan has some good tennis skills. He works his way through it.”
Senior Chris Wygonik is the fourth singles player.
“He loves the competition,” Muller said. “He plays aggressively. Having Chris at the bottom of the singles, our chances at singles are pretty good.”
At the present time, the same cannot be said of the doubles teams, which are still in transition.
The Wildcats started their season with a 4-3 non-league home loss to Islip last Thursday, but that had to be encouraging to Muller because his foes compete in League III.
“Even though we lost, we were competitive,” he said. “It came down to the third doubles team, just getting overtaken.
“That’s where the coaching part comes in, just get that one point, get the right chemistry. The weather’s been cooperative. We’ve had some good practices outside. We’re definitely looking up.”
Attempts to reach Riverhead coach Lonnie Hughes were unsuccessful prior to the deadline.