Lapel is the boys tennis team to beat once again

·4 min read

Aug. 11—The 2021 area boys tennis season opens with the same question it has for more than half a decade.

Can anyone knock off Lapel?

An experienced Bulldogs team enters the fall seeking its ninth straight sectional title and eighth straight Madison County championship under the leadership of Justin Coomer. With four top players returning and a handful of talented newcomers, Lapel should be the favorite to continue those streaks.

However, Pendleton Heights returns all key players except for one and is expected to contend and, despite being young, neither Alexandria nor Madison-Grant — which lost area player of the year Nick Evans to graduation — should be overlooked.

Here is a glance at the area teams for the upcoming boys tennis season:

ALEXANDRIA

Head Coach: Matt DeVault (9th Season); 2020: 10-12, third place CIC; Key Losses: Derek Stinefield, Dylan Clark; Key Returning Players: Brayden Bates, Benjamin DeVault, Jesse Lipps, Tanner Norris, Aaron Matthews, James Ward; Newcomers to Watch: Jackson Kettery, Corbin Meeks, Levi Neff; Potential Breakout: Matthews, DeVault

Season outlook: "We always have high goals even for an extremely young team," Coach Devault said in an email. "Brayden Bates, our top player, will be called upon to take the top spot but will miss the first two weeks due to military training. Tanner, James (and) Jesse have had strong summers and will help anchor what should be much improved doubles teams. With Brayden out for a couple weeks, that will open the door for a lot of valuable experience as we see who else will step up. Mississinewa is the strongest team in the conference and should be semistate bound with everyone back. Lapel is the strongest in the area (county and sectional) with a deep roster returning and will be the team everyone will be shooting for this year."

FRANKTON

Head Coach: Mark Hartley (4th season); 2020: 6-12; Key Losses: Logan Smith, Ethan Friend, Ayden Brobston; Key Returning Athletes: Jacob Davenport, Eli Maines, Braxton Walls, Sam Barr, Max Barr; Newcomers to Watch: Aaron Hartley, Jackson Alexander, Jon Hobbs, Logan Sutton; Potential Breakout: Sam Barr, Max Barr, Maines, Walls

Season Outlook: Coach Hartley said the team's goals are to fight for every match and improve this season to a .500 record.

LAPEL

Head Coach: Justin Coomer (12th season); 2020: 17-7, Madison County and Sectional champions; Key Losses: Nick Thalls, Ian Bailey, Jake Eppert, Cam Gooding; Key Returning Players: Corbin Renihan, Landon Bair, Isaac Bair, Jacob Erwin; Newcomers to Watch: Mason Poynter Jr., Kai Newman, Bode McClintock, Brode Judge, Bode Judge; Potential Breakout: Grant Humerickhouse, Dakota Kimmerling, Poynter, Shyam Lewis, Ryder Aldrich, Corbin Pinkerton, Caleb Pinkerton

Season Outlook: "We have a lot of experience coming back as we return our top two singles guys and our one doubles team," Coomer said. "We have 24 boys out for the team, which is by far the most we've ever had. Our final three spots are up for grabs with guys who have talent but just lack overall varsity experience. Our goals are to improve each day, win the county and the sectional championship, and be playing our best tennis as we head into the tournament."

MADISON-GRANT

Head Coach: Tony Pitt (15th season); 2020: 15-6, school record for wins; Key Losses: Nick Evans (THB Area Player of the Year), Jace Gilman, Jackson Manwell, Lance Wilson, Eli Lutterman, Corbin Fox; Key Returning Players: Mason Richards, Bryce Metzger, Christopher Fox, Clayton Hull; Newcomers to Watch: Luke Gilman, Ben Pax, Brogan Brunt, Ty Evans, Soren Price, Davin Barton

Season Outlook: "Obviously, we have some big shoes to fill with losing so many talented players to graduation," Pitt said. "We have had several kids working hard this summer. I look for Fox, Gilman and Richards to have battles at practice for the top singles spot. Hull has missed some time in July with an injury, but when he gets healthy, look for him to compete with the others."

PENDLETON HEIGHTS

Head Coach: Royce Hammel (13th season); 2020: 5-13; Key Losses: Parker Hammons; Key Returning Players: Logan Jones, Blake Stoker, Ryland Mills, Cole Bubenzer, Mark Neilsen, Sam Bowers; Newcomers to Watch: Austin Perny, Sean Cunningham, Brayden Stevenson, A.J. Chaplin, Troy Thorsen; Potential Breakout: Bowers

Season Outlook: "On paper, we return a solid team with a lot of potential talent from the incoming class," Hammel said. "Goals would be to better last year's record, if not (have) a winning season, get back in the top tier in conference play and challenge for the county title."

Shenandoah

Head Coach: John Rhodes (19th season) Key Losses: Lance Holdren, Luke Waggener Key Returning Athletes: Clay Conner, Calyb Toffolo, Landen Mathes Newcomers to Watch: Will Abbott

Season Outlook: "The group I have this year are just a group of kids that are all putting everything they have into each practice," Rhodes said in an email.

Anderson, Anderson Prep, and Elwood did not reply with information for this preview.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting