Individuals to watch
Nicholas Patrick, Alleman: The freshman is a blue chip tennis recruit and one of the top-ranked players in the country in his class. He is ranked no. 1 in Illinois and 14th nationally in the class of 2025. Patrick has played high level players across the country and spent the summer training in Naples, Fla.
To start the season he has 6-1, 6-0 singles wins over Moline’s Ankit Rajvanshi and Macomb senior Connor Lukkarinen.
Local veteran tennis coach Bill Allee is back to coach the Pioneers this season. Allee says Patrick looks like “the real deal” so far.
((Patrick’s) continued development and how well the rest of the players progress during the course of the season will determine how well the team does, “Allee said. “We should be relevant in both the conference and sectional.”
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Ankit Rajvanshi, Moline: The sophomore singles player finished fourth at last year’s Class 2A sectional to qualify for state in his first season. Rajvanshi was also the No. 2 seed and singles runner-up in last year’s Western Big 6 Conference meet, falling to Quincy’s top-seeded senior Caleb Vonderheide.
Coach Rick Mellinger said Moline’s young team is looking to gain experience this year.
“If we are going to finish in the top half of this year’s conference, we will have to work hard and be a quick study,” he said.
Teams to watch
Genesis: The Maple Leafs were the Big 6 runner-up by two points in their first season in the conference last year to Quincy, which won a second straight conference title.
Geneseo lost state doubles qualifiers Mason Miller and Thomas Robinson to graduation, along with Mason Smith.
However, Smith’s doubles partner, junior Alex Slaymaker, is back after two won their first two matches at state and continued to the fourth round of consolation. The run included a win over a seeded opponent in the first round. The two were Geneseo’s first duo to win their first two matches at state.
State singles qualifier and junior Samuel Robinson is also back for the Leafs, which have three other juniors with varsity experience back.
Slaymaker is 5-1 in singles and 2-1 in doubles with Robinson to open the season.
United Township: The Panthers have their whole varsity lineup back this season, anchored by senior doubles partners Dylan Kastner and Kawl Mang. The two made some school history last season as UT’s first state doubles qualifiers in at least 38 years by finishing third at the sectional. Kasnter and Mang also took third in doubles at the Big 6 meet.
Rounding out the lineup are fellow seniors, Josh Lear, Dylan Filby, St. Ambrose tennis commit Marcus Lang and junior Colin Manion.
This will be coach Diego Cross’ last season at the helm after being an assistant since 2008 and head coach since 2016.
“I have coached here for the past 14 years and personally, I’m really hoping I can’t just get them back to state, but I would love to get others to state this year as well,” Cross said.