After experiencing some huge success several years ago that saw the Hiland Hawks tennis team pretty much build the school’s record book, followed by a couple of solid years when the Hawks were competitive, this year’s team has a brand-new look in a lot of ways.
With a line-up dotted with freshmen and newcomers in their first year, second-year head coach Brad Mullet said it has been a definite learning curve experience for his Hawks.
“We have one senior, and the rest have either just picked up a racket or were playing first or second doubles last year,” Mullet said of his young and inexperienced crew. “We have two back from last year’s varsity team, so it has been a learning season for us.”
Mullet said they are picking up some of the simpler techniques, such as basic form and strategy that most of the players had not every thought about before.
Thus, wins have been few and far between, and Mullet admitted that on many nights, they have walked away from matches have lost all five matches in straight sets, many of them 6-0, 6-0.
However, he has kept a positive attitude toward the season, knowing it was going to be a challenge to get the newcomers up to speed.
“It has had its challenges, but I can easily say that we have gotten better over the course of the season,” Mullet said.
The excited hit a crescendo April 18 when the Hawks took on Claymont and came away with a 3-2 win over the Mustangs.
“We went in and celebrated at Dairy Queen after that one,” Mullet said with a laugh.
In that match second and third singles players Timothy Schlabach and Bradley Miller both were defeated. Eric Harmon took down Schlabach 6-2, 6-2, while Eric Zheng defeated Miller 6-4, 6-1.
However, Hiland’s first doubles team of Patrick Miller and Will Mast beat the Claymont tandem of Matthew Dickey and Noah Striker 6-3, 6-4, while Hiland’s second doubles duo of Alyssa Cooper and Derek Hostetler took down Jacob Cannon and Ben Clelland in a quick 6-1, 6-1 victory.
That left the fate of the match in the hands of the first singles players, who went at it for three sets. Claymont’s Joe Cottis jumped out on top with a 6-3 first set win, and Hiland’s Joey Miller battled back to tie it by winning the second set 7-5. Miller continued to role in the third, taking a 6-3 win that helped the Hawks gain their first victory of the year.
Two nights later the Hawks went back to getting swept as Alliance came in and defeated them 5-0.
“Right now, all we want to do is become more consistent,” Mullet said. “Consistency is so important in high school tennis. Between 80 and 90 percent of points are lost on errors rather than won on winners, so if you get more consistency you’re going to eliminate those errors. For the most parts we have grown in that area but we still need to keep working on that. The shots continue to get a little stronger, the ground strokes a little surer and overall we are improving. It’s just going to take time.”