Lake Ridge Academy
By Dan Gilles
Entering his second season as the head boys tennis coach at Lake Ridge Academy, Rich Robbins will field a team that has no seniors among the seven starters, or any of the reserves.
In fact, not one senior will be a part of the Lions tennis team this season.
While that might be a cause for alarm among most coaches, Robbins looks to a team that will field three sophomores and three freshmen and expects improvement from their 3-10 record last season.
The Lions have four lettermen back – a junior and three sophomores – and the three freshmen all play tennis year round with the United States Tennis Association.
“We got really young almost overnight,” Robbins said. “We had a young team last year, but it was nothing like this year. However, I believe we’re definitely stronger than we were last year and we’re deeper down the line, too; especially with the guys who gained (varsity) experience from last year.”
Sophomore letterman Qasim Syed has nailed down one of the top two singles spots for the Lions, along with incoming freshman Roger Peckham. Peckham is a Northeast Ohio-ranked USTA player in both the 14-and-under and 16-and-under age brackets.
“Roger got some good playing experience over the summer, and Qasim also got a year of experience under his belt,” said Robbins, who is a USTA teaching professional.
“Jacob (Dempsey) and Varun (Kumar) also played in USTA tournaments, so we’ve got quite a few guys with USTA tourney experience.”
Dempsey, a sophomore, and Kumar, a freshman, are expected to play doubles for the Lions this season. Kumar was penciled in as the third singles player, but he has been out of town on spring break and has not been able to practice with the team.
Freshman Caleb Mayer is expected to move up to third singles, while junior Anthony Milluzzi and sophomore Tyler Reese will play doubles.
Dempsey and Reese are expected to play second doubles for Lake Ridge. Milluzzi will likely team with Kumar or Mayer at first doubles.
“All the guys who played on the varsity last year have been practicing (tennis) all year,” Robbins said. “Some of the guys played varsity golf in the fall, but still found time to get tennis work in. I was very encouraged that they played a lot more in the offseason.”
Robbins is excited for the season to begin, which (weather-permitting) it will on April 5 when the Lions host Milan Edison at 4:30 p.m.
“They’re young, but they’re not inexperienced,” Robbins said. “Young and inexperienced go together, but not this time. There’s plenty of experience there, even with the non-lettermen. It looks good on paper, but we’ll see how it does on the court.”
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