Sports

FALLS SPORTS PREVIEW | Boys tennis: In tennis, there’s Riley Newman — and everyone else

Falcon sophomore Riley Newman returns a serve during his 6-0, 6-0 victory over Zach Purcer.  - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Falcon sophomore Riley Newman returns a serve during his 6-0, 6-0 victory over Zach Purcer.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

South Whidbey tennis player Riley Newman is the man to beat in the Northwest Conference this year.

Just like last year.

For the first time in Falcon coach Tom Kramer’s 34 years as South Whidbey’s tennis coach, a freshman boy represented the school at state finals in Seattle last May.

Newman had taken second place at district finals Oct. 19 to advance — losing only to Sehome’s Will Topp 6-4, 6-4.

The luck of the draw found Newman facing the eventual state boys champion, then-senior Richard Muszynski of Clarkston, in the first round.

Newman lost 5-7, 6-4 and 6-3 but won the rest and placed fourth overall after a 6-2, 6-1 consolation victory over Washington’s Ryo Hirasawa.

“Riley was wound up tighter than a drum at the start and won the first set,” Kramer recalled. “He calmed down but Muszynski was very good; the match went almost three hours — it just went on and on. Riley gave a good account of himself and actually improved his game, since the boys season ended in November. He played that kid ball-for-ball and his consistency got better over the two days.”

Though action on the court is one-on-one — or two against two for doubles — tennis is all about teamwork. During practice, everyone pitches in to help improve his mate’s skills.

Kramer said that it’ll be hard to replace last year’s seniors, including Sean Hough, Matt Idso and Jeff Potter, but has faith his younger players will rise to the occasion.

“They’d better, big time, otherwise it will be a very long season,” he said. “Last year’s seniors played tough, made their mark and surprised some teams.”

Which schools is he worried about?

“All of them,” Kramer said. “We’re working on the fundamentals but there’s lots of uncertainty.”

Except for Newman, who appears ready for both class and the court.

“Well, starting today I’m trying to be sure I get my homework in on time,” Newman said. “On the court, I’m finding my serve after some summer downtime. The biggest challenge is making sure I have the right grip. The other thing is that I’ve been staying back too much when I volley. Coach Kramer said to step toward the ball for the best approach shot; it seems to be helping.”

Newman uses an old hand-me-down Prince racket given him by sister Lindsey. “I’ve got a newer one, but this is what I’m comfortable with,” he said.

The number-two seed, Van Morgen, said he prefers singles play.

“You don’t have to depend on anyone else when you play singles,” Morgen said. “I like having to rely on myself, whether I lose or win. But if I lose, I can’t blame someone else.”

Morgen said he’s been working hard on his serve. “The coach wants me to increase my top spin,” he noted. “Last year, opponents took advantage of my lousy serve and we’ve been working to correct that.”

Ben Snow said doubles fits his game better. “Hey, I’m not the fastest guy on the court so working with a partner means I cover less territory,” he said.

Snow thinks there are more solid, all-around players than last year and is looking forward to the season.

Assistant coach Sandy McKenzie said the younger boys showed up in better shape than last year, and she has them working hard on the fundamentals.

“One or two may move up to varsity as the season wears on,” she said.

At 2:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 the Falcons welcome Mount Vernon to the high school courts.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@south

whidbeyrecord.com.

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