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Monday, 13 May 2019 23:59

Raider Tennis Season Recap: 'Individual growth' highlights 2019 season

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The Raider tennis team showed a lot of "individual growth" in 2019 according to head coach Patrick Hope. The Raider tennis team showed a lot of "individual growth" in 2019 according to head coach Patrick Hope. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond Senior High School boys’ tennis team saw its 2019 season have highs and lows, but for second-year head coach Patrick Hope, it was an overall success.

Using a mixture of returning players and fresh faces, the Raiders posted a 4-10 overall mark. All four wins came against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents, as the Raiders’ 4-8 SAC record saw them finish in sixth place.

“This season took a bunch of new and experienced players and put them into new positions,” Hope said. “Kevin Campos and Bradford Pittman moved up to No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the lineup.

“Caleb Brewer and Mason Bailey ventured into singles play, and Karym Ojeda broke into the lineup at No. 5,” he added. “Newcomer Alex Yates played for the first time. The learning curve was steep for the team, as the top half of the conference was loaded with experienced players.”

The SAC was dominated by Jack Britt High School, which went 11-0 in conference play. Richmond drew up its second-straight season with four wins, having gone 4-9 in Hope’s first season in 2018.

Hope also saw his team cut down from 17 players a season ago to just eight this year, and the rotation worked to the Raiders’ benefit. Campos (Thiel College commit), Brewer, Bailey and Adam Morrison were four seniors who brought with them experience and leadership.

Pittman, a sophomore, jumped from the bottom of the lineup to the No. 2 spot, hanging with some of the best competition in the conference. He racked up four singles wins on the season, second only to Brewer’s five singles wins.

Ojeda and Yates filled in nicely at the bottom of the lineup, making a good pairing as the No. 3 doubles team. Fellow sophomore Kevin Lee saw limited playing time, but is expected to contribute to the program in the future.

“We had a resilient group of guys that I enjoyed coaching,” Hope said. “They were a group of guys whose individual skills grew as the season progressed. Individual growth was one thing I looked for, and each player had more in their arsenal at the end of the season compared to February.  

“Kevin took the role of being our top player seriously, and he was able to win games and matches against the conference's top players,” he continued. “Bradford had to make adjustments playing at the top of the lineup compared to last year at No. 6, and he did well adjusting to the pace of the game playing at No. 2.”

The Raiders took both matches against Hoke County and Purnell Swett high schools for their four wins. Richmond held off the Rams 5-4 in both of its matches against Purnell Swett, while rolling past the Bucks 7-2 and 9-0.

“Moments that stood out to me were during our two wins against Purnell Swett,” Hope noted. “In both matches we split in singles, so it came down to our doubles matches. In the first match, Alex and Karym pulled out an 8-2 win over Swett's No. 3 doubles team. In the second match, Karym and Adam hung on to win No. 3 doubles 8-6 to give us our fifth point.  

“We will lose four players to graduation, with Pittman, Ojeda, Yates, and Lee returning,” he added of the future of the program. “One of the biggest things we'll have to do is recruit.  A lot of kids don't grow up playing tennis around here, so we'll have to find some guys, teach them the rules, and how to use the racket quickly.”

Richmond made an appearance in the SAC tournament, but made an early exit in the competition.

“Our four seniors did a lot to keep our newcomers and young players engaged during practices,” Hope closed. “Kevin, Mason and Caleb have been around the program for years, and they took full advantage of being the best players they could be.  

“Adam Morrison also provided energy, as he contributed to some match wins in doubles.”

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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