The numbers are definitely up for the Carl Junction boys tennis program and first-year head coach Craig Fox heading into the 2023 season.
The Bulldogs have tripled their roster size from last season.
“We went from eight players with no seniors or freshmen to 24 players this year, so there is a lot of excitement for the season,” Fox said. “Most have never played tennis before, so it will be a season of learning, but we are looking forward to improving our tennis skills and building toward the future.”
The Bulldogs’ returning players are juniors Blaine Wilkerson, Dan Hodson, Jayden Wolf, Sam Cory and Mayan Gandhi and seniors Ben Morey, Will Russell and Cameron Ball, while their newcomers are senior Keaton Amos, freshman Cameron Anderson, junior Luke Battagler, freshman Seth Brown, freshman Ethan Conklin, senior Brock Feken, freshman Joshua Frakes, sophomore Jake Garrett, senior Ethan Hughes, junior Jack Lawson, senior Jordan Markham, senior Elliott Parker, freshman Daniel Rice, freshman Alexz Schneickert, senior Rowan Stamper and freshman Hayden Wilkerson.
“Our strength will be in numbers and growing our program from the ground up,” Fox said. “It will take time, but the future looks bright for the Carl Junction boys tennis program. Blaine Wilkerson, Dan Hodson, Ben Morey and Jordan Markham have been having a strong preseason so hopefully that will translate to a solid start to our regular season. We also have a couple freshmen that show great potential.
“Lack of experience is certainly a concern. Those who are returning are also young tennis players but have a lot of skill and show great leadership. We will struggle through growing pains but will be better for it. Through perseverance, we will be much stronger as the season progresses.”
Not only do some of the younger players have the chance to crack the varsity lineup, but so do some of the upperclassmen.
“The other boys who played last year, Will Russell, Jayden Wolf, Cameron Ball, Sam Cory and Mayan Gandhi have an opportunity to play varsity this year so it will be exciting to see who steps up and grabs those positions,” Fox said. “Their experience will certainly help them in our preseason competitions.”
The Bulldogs finished 2-10 overall in dual competition the past two seasons and last season ended on a 5-0 loss against Webb City in Class 2 District 7 competition.
Carl Junction, who practice and play home matches at the Joplin Athletic Complex, opens the new season March 29 against Thomas Jefferson.
The Bulldogs’ other home duals are Carthage (April 4), Willard (April 6), Neosho (April 11), Republic (April 20), and Ozark (April 25), while the Bulldogs play on the road against Clever (April 10), Branson (April 13), Webb City (April 18), Nixa (April 27), and then Joplin (May 2) to close out the regular season.
Conference, districts (both team and individual), and possibly state competition begin in early May following the dual against Joplin.