By MIKE HUFFMAN
There's no denying it: The Cheney boys tennis team has it's work cut out.
Not only did last year's graduating class take with it the bulk of the squad, but powerhouse Clarkston also has made the transition to the Great Northern League with Cheney.
Still, nothing is ever gained without a little adversity.
And coach Jesse Erickson said that last Thursday's debut outing for the Blackhawks (an earlier meeting with Clarkston was scrubbed and rescheduled for April 10) showed the team has great promise this season.
“I was actually pretty impressed with the way the guys played,” Erickson said. “There were some close matches.”
For that reason alone, Erickson isn't troubled by the 7-0 loss to Pullman. After all, there's plenty of tennis to come this spring.
At No. 1 singles, junior Joe Kreilkamp gets the nod to lead the Hawks. Kreilkamp played a tough Daniel Kim of Pullman and went down 2-6, 0-6 on Thursday.
“(Kim) is a strong player,” Erickson said. “It was a challenging match for Joe.”
At No. 2 singles, Cheney junior Chris Mock fell 2-6, 0-6 to Tony Yin. Kale Kauwe, also a junior, fared better against Pullman's Levi Herpel, losing 3-6, 4-6 in a pair of sets that impressed the coach.
“(Kale) got off to a slow start, but he played much better later on,” Erickson said. “He's going to be one to watch.”
At No. 4 singles, David Olson—the team's only senior—had trouble establishing a game against Pullman's Kyle Larson.
“He didn't play bad,” Erickson said.
Doubles squads are always interesting because it's challenging to find players who complement each other's styles. Erickson believes he's found a good combination at No. 1 doubles in brothers Layne and Tanner Bennett, a junior and sophomore, respectively.
The Bennetts played a grueling match against Carl Vollmer and Justin Ahn, losing 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
“All our doubles were close,” Erickson said. “We played much better there.”
At No. 2, Stephen Kaplan and Jesse Plowman played a “really close” match, Erickson said, but finished short, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6. And at No. 3 Michael Fisher and Anthony Harris split the first two sets, 6-2, 3-6, then lost 2-10 in a super-tiebreaker due to the late hour.
While Cheney didn't win any of the matches, Erickson said the season is still young and he has hopes his players will soon be in a bit better shape to take on the best the GNL has to offer.
“I think conditioning might have played a small part,” the coach said. “It was actually a pretty good week.”
Cheney doesn't get many breaks in the coming days. Today (Thursday) the Hawks go to Deer Park. And on Tuesday, Cheney travels to Medical Lake to face a tough Cardinal team. Both meetings are scheduled for 3 p.m.
Mike Huffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org