the regular season, so they’ll be stronger come districts and states,” Tyng said. “So I understand the rationale for doing it.”
While the new system could potentially give the Bayside stronger doubles play at states, perhaps its most notable drawback is coaches can now go with just six players in a match — using players in singles and doubles — compared to the nine-player lineup of previous years.
“The mission of the USTA (United States Tennis Association) is simple and clear: ‘To promote and develop the growth of tennis,’” Queen Anne’s head coach Shel Gunther wrote in an email. “Our district is going backwards. Instead of the mandatory nine players, now you can play with six. This potentially cuts high school tennis by one third. Coaches will have to play six to stay competitive or gamble a loss by playing lower seeds when your opponent plays six. It’s a bad system. It’s bad for tennis. It’s bad for kids. We should be doing more to promote tennis and recruit players, not discourage them by playing only six.
“They said this would help us at state competitions and preparing for college tennis,” Gunther continued. “Both false. The reason we lose at states is because of our 1A and 2A schools are playing 3A and 4A schools. This will not change. And at least 95 percent of our high school students will not be playing college tennis. So we’re doing this for less than five percent of the players. It doesn’t make sense to me. I guess different coaches have different philosophies.”
Tyng is also troubled by the potential for reduced numbers. Though he said his stronger players will play singles and doubles against the likes of Easton and North Dorchester, Tyng doesn’t plan on using a concrete lineup for every match, but still had to make cuts this year.
“I hate taking a racquet out of a kid’s hand and sending them home after tryouts,” Tyng said. “Typically I’ve always kept kids around; some of those kids that I keep around as a freshman, by the time their juniors and seniors they’re contributing to the team. So I can’t do that anymore.
“There’s basically two reasons,” Tyng said of the new system. “One, to give the singles players some doubles experience, and two, for the smaller schools to be able to field a team as opposed to putting up forfeits. I understand the reasons why. It’s just anyone that had a larger team, like a Queen Anne’s or an Easton or a Kent Island, now you’ve kind of discouraged kids from coming out because there’s less opportunities.”
While longtime Easton head coach Dick Kemp also sees the pros and cons of the new setup, he plans on using different combinations throughout the entire season at doubles regardless to give younger players a chance to develop.
“Against stronger teams we’ll play one way and against weaker teams we’ll play a different way,” Kemp said. “I’m trying to play as many kids as I can. I don’t care if we win 4-3 or 7-0, it’s all the same. It doesn’t bother me.
“I’m glad that we’re trying it,” Kemp said. “We’re going to go through some growing pains trying to figure the thing out. And every coach is going to have to work through it. It will need tweaking I think, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. The more doubles is good. I wish were playing singles first. That’s something we maybe tweak in years to come but we’ll see how that goes.”
Here’s a look at this year’s local teams:
Kent Island After handling North Dorchester, 7-0, and Easton, 6-1, last week, the defending girls’ Bayside champions are in solid position for a second straight North Division title, which would be a school first in tennis.
Junior Catrina Coyner is a heavy favorite to win a third straight District VIII singles title, matching the mark set by former standout Kristi Wong (2011-13), now a junior at Christopher Newport (Va.) University. Coyner won 140 games and lost just five against Bayside competition last year and will bid to become the conference’s first girls’ singles state champion since James M. Bennett’s Charlotte Haberstroh in 1983.
Kylie Yesker, who went to states in mixed doubles last year with Kyle Allewalt, is at No. 2, followed by field hockey standout Abby Carpenter at No. 3 and sophomore Marissa Teti at 4.
Tyng, who will have Jenny Houston and Celina Kaufman at No. 3 doubles, said he’ll go with his singles ladder in doubles play against the likes of Easton and North Dorchester, but will work other players into the mix during the season.
“With my personnel, the format works great and I think we’re going to have a great year as a result,” Tyng said. “But you know what? We’d be just as good in the old format because we can pretty much go 10 deep and be able to have five strong singles players and two strong doubles teams (like) last year’s formats. It’s a wash.”
The boys’ team should again be strong, though a division championship doesn’t seem likely. Juniors fill the singles ladder, led by Allewalt at No. 1, Connor Abplanalp, Preston Wilder and Ben Schrecongost. Head coach Pete Bendel will pair Allewalt and Wilder at No. 1 doubles, Abplanalp and Brady Gallagher at No. 2, and Hank Mowbray and Alec Coyner at 3.
“I had my reservations, but I think the competition is better because of the new format,” Bendell said.
Queen Anne’s County “It’s Easton’s to lose,” Gunther said of the boys’ North title.
And should the Warriors stumble, the Lions figure to be right there to possibly win a second division title in three years.
Queen Anne’s graduated Robbie Kight — who qualified for states in mixed doubles — Parker Martin and Alex Downes. But a 7-0 start to the season has shown the returning cast of Blake Witt, Austin Thomas, Tanner Morris and Matt Lutz are solid, along with newcomers Thomas Glowacki, Ian McGrory and Corey Higdon.
Like Gunther, girls’ head coach Dee Fisher thinks the new format hinders player development.
“We don’t support the new format because it takes away from letting more people play,” Fisher said. “If you’re out there just trying like to dominate and compete and win, and that’s all you want to do, then it’s a great format. But if you’re trying to build a program and you want a lot of people to play and get the experience, it doesn’t go for you. I mean it’s good for schools that only have like a small number of players, so they don’t have to forfeit, but other than that I don’t know why they did it.”
After graduating seven seniors, the Lions have struggled early, but Fisher still thinks his team is ahead of schedule. Catie Leager (Sr.), Ruth Murdoch (Jr.), Katherine Priddy (Sr.) and Kayla Workinger (Sr.) make up the singles ladder, while Fisher has Morgan Elburn and Abbey Heinz, Claire Dean and Olivia Minnick and Carrie Walczak and Mary Jo Hendrix at doubles.
Saints Peter and Paul The girls’ team enjoyed perhaps its finest season in school history