The Oyster River High School Boys Tennis team has more than one devastating loss to recover from this season.
The first came at the state championship match last year. The team had a perfect record going into their final match against Lebanon. However, things did not go as planned. They suffered a 6-3 defeat that left them feeling as if they did not reach their potential. “We played one of our worst matches of the entire season,” says Ryan Coxen (‘17), who competed in the championship. “We were slow right off the bat and dug ourselves into a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
The second is the loss of four of their top six players from last year’s strong team. “Everyone on the team needs to step and play their hardest each and every match,” Coxen says. One of the players the team will have to play without is Henry Bulkley (‘18), who was the team’s top player as well as the highest ranked player in Division II, but left to play for a club team in a more competitive league.
Despite losing many of their strongest players, the team is optimistic about the upcoming season. “Our goal is to be as successful as we were last year, even with the players we lost,” says Sam Newton (‘17), who is entering his fourth year as a member of the tennis team. This year, the varsity top six is likely to include four seniors,however, the roster will be rounded out by younger players. “We have players with less experience filling out the roster so they have to get used to the level of competition quickly,” says head coach Andrew Allen.
Allen is entering his fifth season as head coach of the tennis team. Last season was the most successful under his tenure. “Along with great team chemistry and having a group of kids who give their best, we had athletic kids who picked up the game and learned quickly.”
While last season’s loss at the state championship may have been hard to swallow, the team is now using it as motivation to work towards making it back to that championship match this year. “We like to have a lot of fun, but we practice very hard so we don’t repeat a bad loss in the championship again,” Coxen says.
As Coxen said, the tennis team is notorious for having one of the most light and fun atmospheres of any ORHS team. “It’s always a really inclusive environment, and everyone feels like they are a part of the team,” Newton says. However, don’t be fooled by their laid back attitudes, the players on the tennis team are working hard to have another successful year, and maybe get another shot at the elusive state championship trophy.