By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
The Rams tennis team opens the season a little later than the rest of the spring sports teams.
The extra preparation time could be valuable for Mt. Vernon, which enters the season with an inexperienced roster of players. Mt. Vernon lost seven seniors. Five competed at the varsity level, including state finalist Aaron Neibert.
“I think with this group especially with the new people that we do have and some of them just learning the fundamentals of the game that is certainly a positive thing,” Knox said of having several weeks of practice prior to the April 2 opener.
A total of 21 tried out for the tennis team this season, and Knox kept 15 for the upcoming season. About 10 of the 21 players who tried out were first-year players.
The Rams will lean on the experience of senior Nathan Arnold and junior Jared Hatton this season. Both played big roles at the varsity level for the Rams a season ago. The two will team together to form Mt. Vernon's top doubles duo. Knox said as of now Arnold will be at No. 1 singles with Hatton at No. 2. The team is currently in the middle of challenge matches, which could change the lineup.
“After those two, we're going to have a lot of inexperience this year,” Knox said. “We've got some pretty good athletes coming out this year, but they are novices, playing tennis. So they have a lot to learn and development in their skills.”
Another player that brings back experience is senior Aiden Ezell, who Knox said will be in the No. 3 or 4 singles spot.
Knox added that first-year players juniors Dalton McGowen and Austin Martin could contribute at the varsity level.
“They've been showing improvement in the first few days of practice, and I see them challenging for a varsity position,” Knox said.
This is Knox's first season as head coach of the boys team, taking over for Dave Junkins. Knox is also the Lady Rams tennis coach and has more than 200 career wins. The new boys coach said the transition has been smooth.
“I do know a lot of the boys certainly that were on the team last year and do work with them in the summer program,” Knox said.
Mt. Vernon hosts Massac County at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2.