By Chris Chaney
Coming off of an undefeated season in 2012, the Felicity-Franklin boys’ tennis team would be hard pressed to duplicate that success in 2013, especially sans seven seniors that helped lead the Cardinals to the top spot in the Southern Buckeye Conference National Division.
However, with defending Coach of the Year Ralph Adams still at the helm, Felicity will not wilt under the pressure of rebuilding, thanks in large part to a returning First Team All-Conference performer who will lead the way for Felicity.
“We were undefeated, but I had seven seniors that I lost,” Adams said. “The only one coming back from that team was a First Team All-Star Steve McCann. He’ll be a senior and he’ll play first singles for us. He has gotten a whole lot better since last year; he’s gotten bigger and stronger. I expect him to have a really good year.”
Aside from McCann, Adams’ team will be chalk full of young, yet talented newcomers. Adams is encouraged by the level of commitment demonstrated by the incoming members of the team and hopes to build the program back up through the young crop of talent.
“After (McCann), we’ve got a whole bunch of young kids, but one is only a freshman, Devon Denune,” Adams said. “He’s been taking tennis really seriously throughout his junior high years. He plays a lot with his dad who is the phys. ed. teacher at Felicity and he’s been giving Steven (McCann) a pretty good game.”
Adams expects Denune to back up McCann and play No. 2 singles and even as a freshman, the coach expects big things out of Denune. As he gains more experience, Adams thinks that he can become one of the best players in the SBC as early as next season.
The only other player on the roster that has any experience with high school tennis is Robert Appelmann. Appelmann played for Felicity during his freshman year, but took his sophomore off and is returning as a junior to Adams’ squad.
The rest of the team has been a pleasant surprise for Adams who says the young talent has come in strongly and has looked promising in the few workouts the team has been able to fit in on the courts.
Not immune to the lingering winter weather and not privy to an indoor facility other than the school’s gym, Felicity has had to settle for a frustrating training regiment that only goes as far as the coach’s imagination.
“We don’t have access to an indoor tennis court,” Adams explained. “We have practiced in the gym. We can practice our serves and we can hit off the wall, which doesn’t do much except for get their elbows and shoulders in shape. Then we pretty much call it a day, it’s not anything like practicing outside, but it’s a long ways better than nothing.”
The Cardinals were able to get out on the court between five and six times leading up to the season opener, Adams said, but it’s been so cold that the team has had trouble getting much accomplished.
As for how Felicity is stacking up with their competition in the Southern Buckeye Conference, Adams expects his team to compete. They will not be the overwhelming favorites that they were last season, but he doesn’t expect to find his squad in the cellar, either.
“It’s hard to say (who the best team will be) with so many good players across the league graduating,” Adams said. “As far as our division (National) goes, Blanchester and Batavia are always ready to play and seem to have a player or two who is really good. They’re well-coached, and are able to find a player and turn them into a pretty decent tennis player. CNE is in our division now and you never know about them, they’re a big school.
“It’s going to be an interesting division. I’m not predicting that we’re going to win the league, but we’re going to be really competitive.”
The boys’ tennis season officially got underway on Monday, April 1 and the Cardinals were in action shortly thereafter.