By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Heading into this year’s tennis season, North Laurel coach Bobby Smith will field a very experienced girls’ team, while on the boys’ side, he has several players to replace.
“We return five of our six players that competed at the regionals last year,” Smith said of the girls. “I expect Caroline Moore and Pooja Kanthawar to be one the of the top doubles teams in the region, and they should have an excellent chance at qualifying at state.” This will be Kanthawar’s sixth year on the team, while Moore is entering her fourth.
“So they both have experience,” Smith said. “Caroline has the best doubles instincts we’ve ever had, and Pooja is usually pretty steady. They form a quality team, and I’m looking forward to their season.”
Others returning with experience include Brynna Ryle, Kendra Smallwood and Makara Prichard.
“Those three all have at least a couple of year’s experience and should hold their own in the middle of our lineup,” Smith said.
Right now Smith is looking for a player to grab the sixth spot.
“That spot is up for grabs with Casey Stenger, Taylor Hubbard, Manpreet Sira, Callie Camp, Cassie Herwarth and Myra Neeraj rounding out the squad,” Smith said. “With five players back who have quite a bit of experience, I look for us to have a decent season. We need somebody to step up and give us a reliable No. 6 seed. If we can get that, we should have a fine year. Corbin is the predominant favorite with Clay County probably having the inside track for second best leading into the season. South Laurel and ourselves should also be in the running.”
As for the boys, Smith is looking at a very inexperienced team heading into the season.
“In regards to regional experience they are very inexperienced,” Smith said. “Four of our top five players either graduated or moved. We lost arguably the best doubles team to every play at North in Brad Baker and Rajeev Jadhav, last year’s regional doubles champions. They went 4-0 again Corbin doubles teams last year—they beat a team from Louisville powerhouse Kentucky Country Day—they were one of the top 12-15 teams in the state last year. Needless to say, we’ll greatly miss those two.”
Also gone from last year’s team are Josh Harris and Travis Evans.
“Those four guys will be hard to replace,” Smith said. “Arjun (Kanthawar) and Spencer (Bolton) are the only two that have played in the regional tournament, and last year was the first for both of them. But we have others that have been in the program for a few years, so hopefully we won’t be as inexperienced as it looks on paper. Arjun should be our top player, but 2-6 you could probably throw in a hat. There’s not much difference right now between Spencer Bolton, Justin Maggard, Sammy Maggard, Dakota Boggs and Hassan Salim. Ryan Jones has improved greatly and as the season progresses, I could see him push for playing time. Aussie Walter is an athletic kid that could also be in the mix. Ian Boggs, Quanah Houston, Gavin Gray and Hunter Higgins are all middle-schoolers we’re developing for the future, With Arjun and Hassan, that makes half our team that consists of middle-schoolers. So the future looks bright, and I’m excited to see how we progress with this new bunch of kids.”