Boys tennis: Verona brings back all starters at singles | Sports

Untested and inexperienced were two words that described a young and talented Verona boys tennis team last season.

Three-fourths of Verona’s lineup last year were freshmen and sophomores. While many young players took some lumps against more experienced players in the Big Eight Conference, the growth of Wildcats showed has fueled higher expectations for this year with its top four singles players returning, led by sophomores Ryder Broadbridge and Justin Hutchcroft. Broadbridge went 7-9 at No. 1 singles and Hutchcroft went 8-10 at No. 2 singles.

“We are still young, but we have experience,” Verona coach Mark Happel said. “I think last year they learned the importance of preparation and what it takes to get to the next level. They have been playing all year. ”

The other singles players back are sophomore Riley Sweet at No. 3 singles and senior Joe Bakalars at No. 4 singles.

The Wildcats also return five players who played doubles last season – juniors Luke Schorr, Josh Bradley and Riley Sass and sophomores Justin Happel and Jacob Brierley. Happel said the quintet will play doubles this season, but he’s not sure at what flight or combination.

Bradley played at No. 1 doubles last year. Sass and Brierley teamed up at No. 2 doubles and Justin Happel and Schorr were the tandem at No. 3 doubles last season.

“With so many guys back they know what to expect with the drills and terminology,” Happel said.

The recent cold, rainy weather has proven a challenge for practices. Happel said if they are forced to, Verona will practice inside this week to gear up for the season opener against Big Eight Conference rival Sun Prairie on Thursday, April 14, at the Verona Area High School.

Happel said Middleton and Madison West are the top contenders for the Big Eight Conference title.

Middleton went 9-0 and rolled to the conference championship last spring. The Cardinals have reached the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals two of the past three years. There was no season in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cardinals return a trio of singles players who reached state last season – senior Ian Connell (23-1), sophomore Koji Heinemann, who went 25-5 last year and junior Jonathon Kim, who went 28-2. The Cardinals also had seniors Jacob Mandelbrot and Kieran Gopal compete at state at doubles last season.

Madison West is led by junior Ethan Yu, a Division 1 state qualifier last year, who went 17-2. The Regents also bring back sophomore Joey Kaji who played at state at doubles last season. Madison Memorial also had two singles state qualifiers last year – sophomore Gokul Kamatjh and junior Juan Gallego. The Spartans’ Sanjay Mathur also made a run to state at doubles last year.

Sun Prairie brings back its top doubles team – senior Jacob Baldwin and sophomore Nikko Vilwock that competed at state last season.

Happel said Madison Memorial, Verona and Sun Prairie will be battling for top-four finishes.

Verona split two matches against Sun Prairie last year.

“We will learn a lot right away,” Happel said.

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