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Monday, June 26, 2017

Sikeston boys tennis team returns several, including No. 1, for upcoming season

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sikeston tennis coach Russ Dial talks to team members at practice Thursday, March 9, 2017, at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium. The tennis team opens their season March 23 when they host Cape Central.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston boys tennis team returns six players from a 2-12 season last year including their No. 1 player.

Junior Brett Johnson headlines a Sikeston squad that will continue to battle through inexperience throughout their lineup and an unpredictable weather schedule that has slightly deterred preparation.

"As usual this time of year the weather is always a hindrance in our preparation for the upcoming season," Sikeston tennis coach Russ Dial said. "However, we have been able to get out on the courts enough to establish who and who will not be contending for our varsity squad."

Sikeston's Brett Johnson practices his serve at practice Thursday, March 9, 2017, at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium. The tennis team opens their season March 23 when they host Cape Central.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
With Johnson as Sikeston's solid No. 1, rankings 2-6 are up in the air.

Seniors Michael Porter, Beau Bryant and Jackson Clay, junior Will Leonard and sophomore Aaron Mays returns to the Bulldogs' lineup and continues to battle for the remaining positions behind Johnson. Junior Jarred Sandlin, a newcomer, also figures to be in the mix.

"Brett will be our No. 1, this is clear," Dial said. "Rankings 2-6 are all very close in ability and we haven't determined an order yet... Again, as it is with every season the majority of our players have had very little tennis experience and our new players to the team have had none."

Joining Sikeston's varsity will be Warren Chinwuko, Charles Brooks, Charlie Cox, Eric Huang, Lang Li, Bryce Miller, Grant Lawson and Lane Curtis.

"Team competition, on the other hand will be tougher for us with all the inexperience, but thus far during our practices everyone has focused on getting better, so who knows," Dial said. "We could surprise the stronger teams we will face in our district."

Sikeston has been reassigned back to Class 1 after spending the past four seasons in Class 2. The Bulldogs will be joined by Arcadia Valley, Dexter, North County and Notre Dame in Class 1, District 1.

"I think this will help our chances of sending players to state in the future," Dial said about the district change. "While in Class 2, we just couldn't compete with the larger schools out of St. Louis area that have access to resources we do not have in this area, such as indoor courts, and year round USTA Jr. Team Tennis. We won't have to face them at the sectional round of post-season while in Class 1. Hopefully, our No. 1 will be able to advance to the sectional round. We have high hopes for him individually."

For the first time in his tenure, Dial has a volunteer assistant coach, Sikeston high school teacher Tiffany Kwan.

"She is passionate about the game, has a background in tennis and it has been good having her work with the new players to the team while I have been able to concentrate on the guys contending for varsity positions," Dial said. "It has always been tough for me splitting my time on the court showing players who know nothing about the game how to play from the ground up and getting them ready to compete in the first match. Unfortunately, at the same time, getting the returner's match-ready. Hopefully, having the extra help will result in our program getting better."