North Laurel Jaguar tennis Coach Bob Smith admitted he didn’t know what to expect out of his young and inexperienced squad coming into the 2019 season.
With only three experienced players returning to the mix, many thought Smith’s Jaguars would be in rebuilding mode, but they were able to surprise by winning 12 matches.
“We had several newcomers that played huge roles in our success,” Smith said. “Micah (Steely), Lucas (Ball), Zack (Harbach), Bradley (Day), and Elijah (Hayes) had never played before. Micah ended up playing No. 1 singles for us after the first couple weeks and earned a No. 6 seed at region before bowing out in the quarters. He was a great find for us and has a lot of ability. He will only get better as he learns the game more. Trendon (Ball) and Noah (Boggs) had the most experience coming back and were our main No. 2 doubles team. They probably played their best match of the year at regions before falling to possibly the best non-seeded team in the tournament.
“Trey (Walton) and Lucas became our No. 1 doubles team and picked up some big wins,” he added. “I’m proud of them advancing to the quarters of the regional and becoming a pretty solid doubles team. Lucas also picked up the most singles wins for us for the year. He was a valuable piece to our success. Zack came on at the end of the year at No. 6 singles and provided us with several wins. Bradley also picked up several wins for us at No. 6 before some injuries sidelined him. Elijah got to play several exhibition matches and gained some experience. He will help us in the future.”
After getting off to a slow start to begin the season, things started to pick up for North Laurel after the Jaguars began winning consecutive matches by identical scores of 5-4.
“The turning point for us was in the middle of the season when we won four of five straight matches by a 5-4 score,” Smith admitted. “That propelled us to the winning season. Those wins are always satisfying when you pull out those tight matches.
“We only lose Trendon, so we should improve next season with more experience,” he added. “We've got some middle schoolers coming up who will contend for playing time. So with just one senior-to-be for next year, the future looks bright.”