The diverse landscape of high school tennis in the North Fork Valley is hard to predict, and coach Brian Benson has a whole new set of changes to deal with this season.
Boys' tennis takes to the court during the fall season and the girls' squad plays during the spring season. Players from both Paonia and Hotchkiss High Schools combine to form the teams, and after being affiliated with the Bulldogs for the past couple years, the tennis team this year will be run from Paonia.
"Part of the reason for that is transportation," Benson said at practice last Friday afternoon. "Our bus originates out of Paonia so it just kind of made sense for convenience sake. Also, the courts are at Apple Valley Park, so we have to come here anyway. They're great courts."
Benson fired volleys and gave instructions to a young boys' team practicing last Friday, preparing for the Eagles first competition which will come in three matches this week.
The turnout of nine boys for the squad is a little less than previous years after Benson said the team lost five or six players to graduation.
"Two years ago we had 20, which was maybe the most we've ever had," Benson said. "We lost a good strong group of seniors that had been playing together quite a while. This year we've got six boys from Hotchkiss and three from Paonia."
The varsity tennis squad can have 11 total players, four doubles teams and three singles players.
With just nine players, Paonia will have to forfeit one doubles match in each contest played this season.
"We'll forfeit that one match," Benson said. "This is my fifth year with the boys, and this is the first time we've been short. This year we're fighting to have enough."
The singles players have been playing every day basically since the middle of February.
"I'm excited to see what our singles do," Benson said. "They've put in so much time together."
The tennis team began match play yesterday against Grand Junction's junior varsity. The Eagles host Fruita's JV tomorrow at 4 p.m. then play host to Vail Mountain's Gore Rangers and Cortez's Panthers Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Both matches are at Apple Valley Park.
Look for upcoming issues of the DCI to provide match coverage and player profiles for the tennis team.