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Frankfort tennis looks to fill holes

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THOMAS: Junior Chase Thomas hits a backhand during Monday’s first practice as senior Riley Brasham and James Ostler look on. Thomas is another Hot Dog who gained varsity experience last season.
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HOT DOGS TENNIS: The Frankfort boys tennis team for 2019 includes, from left, Chase Thomas, Luke Hodge, head coach Julie Calvert, Jacob Wessell, Elijah West, Carter Wilson, Noah Wilder, Riley Brasham, Frankfort Middle School head coach Dylan Smith and James Ostler.
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OSTLER: Junior James Ostler follows through on a forehand during a drill at Frankfort’s first official boys tennis practice of the season on Monday.
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WILDER: Senior Noah Wilder is among Frankfort boys tennis players returning with varsity experience this season. Wilder played No. 1 singles for the Hot Dogs in last season’s sectional.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Frankfort hopes to keep the momentum going in boys tennis this season, but they’ll need some unproven players to step up after losing three key players to graduation.

“We had a winning season,” head coach Julie Calvert said of last year. “We had our No. 1 doubles move past sectionals to the first round of regionals and we won our Hot Dog Invitational. Those are some of the highlights as far as the team went.”

The Hot Dogs ran off a six-match winning streak at the end of last season before losing to Western Boone, 4-1, in sectional play. The No. 1 doubles team of Isaac Hunter and Nic Kinder continued to regional under the state tournament format allowing No. 1 singles and doubles to move on from losing teams for individual honors, but those two and singles player Nolan Varner were lost to graduation.

“We lost three seniors and two of them were on that doubles team, so our underclassmen have big shoes to fill and they are up for the challenge there’s no doubt about it,” Calvert said. “They are ready to take on that next level of responsibility as they move up the chain of varsity sports.”

Hunter often played No. 1 singles during the season, with Kinder at No. 2 and Varner at No. 3, but Calvert noted the Hot Dogs were fluid with their lineups and don’t have anything set this early in practice for the coming season.

“We mixed around a lot last year,” she said, noting that returning senior Noah Wilder played No. 1 singles in last year’s sectional but she’s not ready to anoint anyone to positions at this point.

“This is our first official practice, so I am not going to put out anything like that,” Calvert said. “We had conditioning last week with hitting and footwork and building up endurance and now it officially starts today. So, now we work toward finding positions and spots in singles and doubles and how it all works out. We’re a long way from placement yet.”

Along with Wilder, she has juniors Jimmy Ostler and Chase Thomas returning with varsity experience. Eight came out for Monday’s practice with the possibility of others joining the fold before the season begins on Aug. 20 at Lafayette Central Catholic.

Calvert, in her third year as head coach and fifth with the program, sees this as a feeling out period, but liked what she saw in the summer with those coming out for the team.

“We’re looking to find our voice,” she said. “Everything is really brand new.

“Those three seniors were there from freshmen to seniors, so they have been part of the fabric of our tennis team. So, we are trying to find our voice. I have all the confidence that we will and be successful, be competitive and that’s all you can want. Just get better every match.

“Any time you lose seniors, the underclassmen have to step up and find a new role as far as leadership goes and how to contribute to the team and things like that,” Calvert noted. “I have no doubt these boys are already improving. They are up for the challenge, they love being out here and they work really, really hard.

“I’m just so proud of them. They keep getting better and better and I just hope they reap the benefits of that once the season begins.”

Along with Wilder, Thomas and Ostler, those turning out for the Hot Dogs’ first practice on Monday included Riley Brasham, Luke Hodge, Jacob Wessell, Elijah West and Carter Wilson.

Highlights from this season’s schedule include a home date with Rossville on Sept. 19 and the Hot Dog Invitational two days later on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Frankfort finished 3-3 in the Sagamore Conference last season, behind champion Lebanon (6-0), Western Boone (5-1) and North Montgomery (4-2). They begin conference play with their first home match on Aug. 22 against Danville, with other conference matches against Western Boone at home on Sept. 3, at Southmont on Sept. 10, at Lebanon on Sept. 12, against North Montgomery on Sept. 17 and against Crawfordsville on Sept. 26.

The Hot Dogs’ schedule finishes up on Sept. 30 on the road against Western, with the sectional draw set for that evening. Sectionals are slated to run between Oct. 2-5, with Lebanon, Rossville, Western Boone and Zionsville traditionally making up the rest of the sectional field.

Area power Zionsville, winners of 20 of the past 25 sectionals, beat Rossville in last year’s sectional final, 4-1, and is expected to be the team to beat again, finishing the season ranked No. 21 in the state by the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association.