Youthful Titans begin defense of Region 6 boys tennis crown
Mar 27, 2019 02:14PM
● By Josh McFadden
Olympus varsity tennis players (from left) Caleb Bowen, Milo Headden, Stewart Goodson, Ethan Stanger, Sawyer Peterson, Matt Holmes and Oscar Smith are ready for the 2019 season. (Photo by Susan Stanger)
The Olympus boys tennis team rode the talents and experience of seniors last season. The Titans will have a different look in 2019.
At the high school level, in just about every season, coaches have to find ways to replace the loss of key players. Graduation can take a heavy toll from year to year, but the best teams reload and have newcomers emerge and step up.
This is where Olympus head coach Mike Epperson finds himself this season as he prepares to once again direct the boys tennis squad.
The Titans lost five of their seven varsity competitors from the 2018 team that finished first in Region 6 and seventh in Class 5A. Epperson knows his young group has its work cut out for it, but he’s also optimistic about the season outlook.
“Expectations are always high, but we are definitely in rebuilding mode,” he said. “This will be the youngest team I have coached in eight years with no seniors on the varsity squad. However, we had a good JV squad last year with many of those players moving up to the varsity role. Our varsity squad will mostly consist of freshmen and sophomores this year, which bodes well for the future of the program.”
Epperson will rely heavily on the talents, experience and leadership of juniors Sawyer Peterson and Ethan Stanger. The captains are the only returning varsity players but bring much to the court for the Titans. The duo qualified for state last season and made it all the way to the finals of second doubles before losing 6-1, 6-1.
Outside of these two players, Epperson is still trying to figure out who’s ready to compete at the other positions. He has 24 players in the program to work with.
“We don’t have our varsity set as of yet, as it’s been a competitive preseason with many players vying for those varsity spots,” he said. “I believe the player rotation of JV and varsity within this team will be ongoing all the way up to when our region matches start in April. We’ll find out which players are the hungriest and want to carry the mantle of being a varsity player.”
What the Titans lack in varsity match experience they make up for in desire and work ethic. Epperson is impressed with the efforts each player has made on and off the court. He believe the players will gel quickly, which will help tremendously when the competition heats up.
“The strengths of the team this upcoming season is the enthusiasm of wanting to be on the courts playing whether the weather is poor or not,” he said. “There is good synergy in the program, especially with the returning players that we have. Young players in a program are moldable, so I am able to work with their inexperience to help them acquire playing techniques and a proper mindset on the court that will help them gain confidence and have a winning edge come the time competition starts.
“Most of my players are honor roll students, so there is plenty of drive, intelligence and focus when we practice, which helps to bring a healthy competitive spirit to the team.”
Success this season may not come by the win-loss record.
Epperson has helped establish a strong tradition at Olympus, and he hopes the new players will cling to that mindset . More importantly, he wants the players to enjoy playing and being together.
“The season will be a success if the boys buy in to the winning program we have established here the last few years,” he said. “Leadership from captains are always key to the work effort and discipline that comes with practicing.
“First and foremost, I want the students to have a tremendous experience playing tennis for a great school as Olympus. However, winning is much more fun than losing, so we will go and play every match expecting to win as individuals and as a team. I expect success with this tennis program, and starting my fourth season at Olympus, the boys haven’t let me down yet.”
So far, so good for the Titans. Over the weekend of March 9–10, Olympus participated in a 12-team tournament in St. George, capturing first place.