Expectations high for defending state tennis champs Huron and Greenhills as fall season begins
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
For Huron High School boys tennis team -- who are defending Division 1 boys tennis state champions -- even day one is filled with high expectations. The River Rats lost eight seniors from last year's championship team, but head coach Stefan Welch is encouraged by what he saw on the first day of practice.
“That experience will be tough to replace, but it looks like kids have worked hard in the offseason,” Welch said. “A lot of our kids have been playing year-round and I’m seeing some improvement from almost everybody out here.”
“It feels really good to see everyone together and to see how much everyone has improved,” said senior captain Max Teener. “I’m looking forward to the season.”
AnnArbor.com file photo
“Finding people that play well together for doubles is pretty important,” Teener said.
Welch said his team has a lot of improving to do, but is confident his players will do the work to get better.
“Our expectations are always high here at Huron,” Welch said. “But these guys are pretty self-motivated, so it makes my job a lot easier.”
Down the road at Greenhills School, the reigning Division 4 state champion Gryphons return 11 players to a squad that won the school's fifth title in six years in 2011. That doesn't mean the first day of practice was easy for head coach Eric Gajar.
“The toughest part of the first half of our season may be tryouts,” Gajar said.
Even seniors Mathun Saha and Chang Che -- Saha the returning No. 1 singles player and Che a member of the No. 1 doubles team -- will be tested for the top spots on the team. For Gajar, being pressured early in practice can help prepare the team for the trials of the regular season.
“Certainly we are a marked team and people look to us as the team to beat,” Gajar said. “It’s tough to keep that high level all year long because you are getting everyone’s best every week.”
Aside from getting their opponents' best efforts, Gajar likes to schedule tougher matches to keep his guys on their toes.
“We play a tough schedule where we mix in a lot of tough, higher division opponents. We don’t just go all season blowing people out,” Gajar said. “We take enough losses during the year that it keeps guys realizing that there is something to work for.”
And while nothing is guaranteed, for this returning group of players, anything less than another state title won’t be accepted.
“I think with this year’s returning group of guys, they would probably think they were the favorites,” Gajar said.