BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — The top of the lineup is back in place for the Shenendehowa boys’ tennis team, but replacing depth lost from a year ago will be the Plainsmen’s top task early in the 2016 season.
“We want to see everyone fighting out there,” senior Ritwik Mishra said.
Mishra, the team’s No. 1 singles player, returns in that spot from last year, while junior Jon Frutschy is back as the team’s No. 2 solo player. After those two, though, head coach Bill MacArthur’s squad is counting on a number of athletes moving up from the junior varsity or varsity exhibition ranks to bolster Shenendehowa’s lineup.
In recent years, the Plainsmen have relied on the team’s depth to stay competitive in the Suburban Council. Last year, the team’s senior-laden group of doubles players was a source of strength for Shenendehowa, but this year’s 26-deep team is less experienced and will need to find more points from its top individual players.
“We’re going to be stronger in our singles,” Frutschy said. “If we can get a good doubles lineup together, too, that will help a lot.”
With the team’s less-experienced players, Mishra said the key is for them to stay within themselves. As the season goes on and Shenendehowa’s greenest Plainsmen gain more varsity experience, that should be easier.
“The most important thing is to stay calm and be mentally strong,” Mishra said. “We need to keep our cool.”
Shenendehowa’s first scheduled match was set for April 4, but that meeting with Shaker was postponed because of poor weather. The Plainsmen have three matches set up in total for the week, but MacArthur said that Mother Nature might dictate a slower start to the Plainsmen’s season than the team had hoped.
When Shenendehowa does get playing, MacArthur said he expected the Plainsmen to be competitive this season. Extra league matches against new Suburban Council foes — Albany, CBA, Schenectady, and Troy — should provide at least a couple opportunities, too, for the Plainsmen to get some of their top players a break.
“That will give us a chance to play a few other guys, too, which is good for us,” MacArthur said.
The coach pegged Bethlehem and Guilderland as the top teams heading into the season, but said he thought the rest of the league was very even. How fast the Plainsmen’s depth develops will play a major role in whether the team comes out on the positive or negative side of the 5-4 decisions MacArthur expects to come in bunches.
“There should be a lot of really good matches,” he said.