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Rossville looks to sustain recent tennis success

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SAID: Senior Grover Said provides Rossville with an experienced varsity player, likely moving up from the No. 2 doubles position he played last season.
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PRICE: Junior Evan Price will likely start the season playing No. 1 singles for Rossville. Price won the Hornets lone match in last season’s 4-1 sectional final against Zionsville at No. 2 singles.
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HORNETS TENNIS: Rossville players turning out for Monday’s first boys tennis practice included, front from left, seniors Dirk Shaw, Grover Said, Griffin Williams and Matthew Haan; and, back, Kahne Gardner, Reid Douglas, Damon Shaw, head coach John Condreay, Evan Price, Jace Jacoby and Evan Lawson.
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WILLIAMS: Senior Griffin Williams looks to volley during a drill at Monday’s first boys tennis practice for Rossville.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Rossville boys tennis has been remarkably consistent during John Condreay’s tenure as head coach, winning the Hoosier Heartland Conference each year and having near identical seasons the last two years.

“Every year I’ve been here we’ve won conference and the last two years were mirror images of each other – 14 and 3 (records),” Condreay said. “We won the Delphi Invitational both years, won conference and again both years had to face Zionsville in the final of sectional.”

Zionsville finished the season ranked 21st in the state by the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association before falling to Park Tudor in the regional. They have won 20 of the past 25 sectionals and six in a row. 

“... I’ve told these guys, ‘you have to understand that Zionsville’s a very good team and have good coaches, but you’re talking about a program where the kids are dedicated to playing tennis.’ They are dedicated all summer. (Our guys) were doing 4-H, they were working, they were doing tennis for most of them as a social sport.

“So, for the month and a half that I get them, we try to make them less social tennis players and more competitive,” Condreay noted.

To duplicate or exceed the past two years success, the Hornets will need to replace four players from last year, but Condreay likes the nucleus of returning players he has and the athleticism of some newcomers.

“We lost four seniors from last year,” he noted. “We lost our No. 1 singles (Nathan Price), our No. 1 doubles team (Dawson Jacoby and Bryce Oliver) and half of our No. 2 doubles team (Corbin Beard).

“Out of the five that are returning, three have a lot of varsity experience from last year, but all of them have played some varsity in the last year or two.”

Condreay noted that junior Evan Price, who gained Rossville’s only win at No. 2 singles against Zionsville in last season’s sectional final, will likely play No. 1 singles, but for the other four players with varsity experience it comes down to where they fit best.

“Obviously, No. 1 will be Evan Price,” he said. “From there, it’s more of a situation of who’s going to be better at singles, who’s going to be better at doubles.”

Those expected to fill No. 2 singles through No. 1 doubles are seniors Matt Haan and Griffin Williams and underclassmen Grover Said and Jace Jacoby.

“All of them have varsity experience,” Condreay said. “The new guys it’s more who wants to compete for two doubles more than anything else. The four guys we’ve got below Evan it’s all pretty close. It’s going to boil down to who’s better at singles and who’s better at doubles.”

While the newcomers to the team lack organized-tennis experience, several coming out are athletic and compete in other sports and Condreay noted that helps with the “learning curve.

“The cool thing is that a lot of the seniors that I have and some of the new guys are athletic, so it’s less of a struggle,” he said. “The struggle is when you get people that aren’t athletic and so you’re having to teach a lot more than just tennis. Teaching tennis isn’t that tough. I’ve been doing it for 30-some years now. So, it’s the same-old, same-old for the most part.

“Knowing that they are athletic and they already have that mindset in there, we just have to teach them the tennis side of it.

“I’m a firm believer that every tennis player should do other sports,” Condreay added. “Basketball especially, basketball and tennis cross over a lot. That’s why one of the seniors we’ve got you can tell when we are running drills he’s mentally referencing what he did in basketball.”

Others who turned out for Monday’s first practice included senior Dirk Shaw and underclassmen Kahne Gardner, Reid Douglas, Damon Shaw and Evan Lawson. Condreay expected a possible addition or two.

“We had open court during the summer and we had some training camps, but this is actually the first time that every single person has been here,” he said. “It was pretty much what I expected to see as far as numbers.

“We have some seniors that haven’t been out and played tennis in two years, so as I told them at the beginning of practice the number one rule is that we have to constantly improve, stop comparing yourself to this guy or that guy, just make sure that you are constantly improving every practice and getting better every day.”

Rossville opens its season at home against Attica on Aug. 20 before playing at Lafayette Jeff the next day and at home against Benton Central the day after that.

Schedule highlights include playing county opponent Frankfort on the road Sept. 19, with the Hoosier Heartland Conference tourney at Delphi on Sept. 21 and the Delphi Invitational on Sept. 28.

Regular-season conference matches include Delphi (home) on Aug. 27, Carroll (home) on Sept. 10, Taylor (road) on Sept. 11 and Eastern (home) on Sept. 18. The sectional runs from Oct. 2-5 at Lebanon, which includes the host Tigers, Frankfort, Western Boone and Zionsville as well as the Hornets.