BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — A season in flux.
That’s what 2016 has become for the Shenendehowa boys’ tennis team, which has rarely had its full roster of players at its disposal. From injuries to college visits to illnesses to vacations, the Plainsmen have not lacked for reasons why their lineup had never been whole through its 8-1 win April 29 against Columbia.
“You name it, it’s been it,” said Shenendehowa head coach Bill MacArthur, whose squad had nevertheless won seven of its first 12 league matches.
That’s meant the Plainsmen have had to ask their athletes to be ready to adjust throughout the campaign. Against Columbia, the major change for Shenendehowa was asking junior Donovan Suguitan to step away from his usual spot of playing doubles to take the No. 5 singles position.
“He’s our best all-around athlete,” MacArthur said of Suguitan, who was one of the top athletes this past fall for the school’s championship-winning boys’ volleyball team.
Suguitan responded well to the switch, posting a 6-1, 6-1 victory in his varsity singles debut.
“It was good to play singles again,” said Suguitan, who said he last played in a singles match for Shenendehowa as a freshman on the junior varsity team. “I got into a groove with it.”
So, too, have the Plainsmen as a whole after a rough start to the season. Shenendehowa played many of the Suburban Council’s toughest teams within its first several matches, a tough draw for a largely unproven collection of players at the varsity level.
“We went through a meat grinder,” Suguitan said.
“But they hung in there and gave it their best shots,” MacArthur said.
And, after a 2-4 start, Shenendehowa’s win against Columbia was the Plainsmen’s fifth in a row.
“We’re more confident now,” said senior Ritwik Mishra, who won 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles against Columbia. “At the beginning of the season, a lot of guys were pretty inexperienced for the varsity level. It was a wake-up call to play all the better teams at the beginning.”
It was tough, too, for the squad’s Plainsmen to take on the responsibility of having to sporadically fill in the lineup’s tougher spots, as needed. Jon Frutschy, a junior, mostly has played No. 2 singles for Shenendehowa this season, but has filled in for Mishra a few times. He said changing up lineup spots is not easy, more from a mental aspect than a physical one.
“Once you get started [in your match], it doesn’t make too much of a difference where you are,” said Frutschy, who won 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 singles against Columbia.
After its match against Columbia, Shenendehowa had three more league matches before team sectionals arrive. Making some noise in the postseason is possible for these Plainsmen, which have momentum on their side.
“We’ve got our footing and we’re coming together as a team,” Suguitan said.