When Hiland tennis coach took a glance at his roster this season, it didn’t take him long to figure out the pieces and parts the Hawks had to roll out on the courts.
With two names on the list, Bert Jones knew he had to hit the hallways at Hiland High School to do some recruiting.
“We had two kids on the roster, so I knew I was going to have to find someone to come out and play,” Jones said.
Jones knew he was limited to kids who were not playing either baseball, track or softball, so he set off on his trek to entice any able bodies to come out and provide Hiland with a full complement of seven players.
He may want to send Hiland boys soccer coach Scott Bodiker a thank you note. Jones found his five players in the form of five Hiland soccer guys who had never picked up a racket before this season. Fortunately for Jones, the five players are all fairly strong athletes who appear as though they may actually bring some quality tennis to the courts for the Hawks this season.
The only Hawks who have played before were number-one singles player Drew Staken in his second year and number-two singles man Jadon Hostetler, who hasn’t played since his freshman year.
All seven are athletic, so Jones said the team should grow in leaps and bounds as they gain some confidence and learn the nuances that come with the game.
“I basically went out and tried to find players who were athletic, who could run and jump and were coordinated and had athletic ability,” Jones said. “I have no doubt that these guys will get better and pick up things as they go along this spring. I don’t expect us to be world-beaters at the beginning of the year, but I think by the end of April this group will have grown a lot and will be very competitive. They are good, hard-working kids, so the team we see now will not be the team we see at the end of the season.”
The Hawks took one on the chin against a tough Marlington team, which made quick work of them in their season opener. However, a much better match-up awaited in game two, where Hiland hosted Canton South (4-2). While the Hawks lost, Staken played great at first singles, and both the first doubles team of Chris Miller and Brant Klink and the second doubles team of Joel Kornhaus and Pat Miller went toe to toe in their matches.
Even in the loss Jones said the difference between game one and game two was immense, so he likes the way his guys are already beginning to grasp some of the little things that make them better and will help them to navigate a learning curve that will only come through competition.
“For most of these guys, it is the first time they have ever picked up a racket. And we had, what, three practices before the season started?” Jones said. “Even Drew was at second doubles last year, so this is a step up to the big time for him to tackle the first singles.”
Jones said while he had to beg pretty hard to get the five to come out and play, once they did, they seemed to enjoy themselves as they learned the game on the fly.
“I think they are actually kind of surprised at how much fun they are having,” Jones said. “I think if they continue to have that kind of enthusiasm and enjoy themselves that their natural athleticism will come out and they will eventually become pretty good players.”