Leelanau co-ed tennis coach trying to put talent in right spots
The answer is yet to be determined.
All that is known is that it won’t be last year’s top netter. Sam Holmes transferred from St. Mary to Traverse City St. Francis after the first semester ended.
Senior Leif Mohrman may have the inside track. He played No. 2 singles last year. Senior Parker Kokowicz, who played football the past two seasons, is back on center court and is one of the contenders for No. 1.
“This year I’m feeling like we’ve got a lot of talent in both the singles and doubles,” said Tim Sutherland, head coach of the 17-member squad. “I’ll be developing my lineup for the first few days of practice and finding chemistry.
“Right now, it’s just about figuring out the right combination, so it’s a work in progress.”
“A lot of the kids feel a little more pressure to play singles,” Sutherland said. “And they like their doubles game.
“Normally it’s the other way around — you have a lot of singles players and you have to make doubles players.”
Getting the right players in their comfort zones will be the challenge.
“Some players are a little bit more comfortable being out there by themselves playing singles,” he said. “Other players may be a little more comfortable volleying and are a little more aggressive to play doubles.
For the co-op team that draws players from four schools, building chemistry is one of the keys to a successful program. A feeling of unfamiliarity can arise and there’s even a built in rivalry at times, said Sutherland. Getting over that isn’t something that worries the coach however.
“‘Four schools, one team’ is our motto,” said Sutherland, who gets players from Glen Lake, St. Mary, Leland and The Leelanau School.
In addition to Mohrman, Sutherland has Leland sophomore Joel Sneed battling for a singles spot again. In doubles, Ross Guilbeau, Brayden Reed and Lindsey Boone are all back from last year.
“Bringing back all of those players gives our team a good mixture of experience,” Sutherland said.
Newcomers also play an important role as well, and the return of Kokowicz after a two-year hiatus is a big boost.
“He’s always been a great player,” Sutherland said of Kokowicz. “He took a couple years off, but he’s getting his game back together and we have very high expectations for Parker.”
Kokowicz has high expectations for himself as well. Though he spent the last two seasons playing football, Kokowicz feels that he will be able to compete at a high level again.
“To make states,” the Glen Lake multi-sport athlete said. “Not just as a team, but individually as well.
“I played well in our scrimmage against Grandville and they’re one of the best teams in the state, so I think I’ll do well this season.”
According to Sutherland, adding Leland freshman Jamie McFarlane helps solidify the singles line-up even further. McFarlane, who’s been playing his entire life, spent the summer assisting in tennis instruction at the Leland country club.
“Jamie’s got a great game and it’s amazing to bring in players like him and Parker that’ll probably end up in the top four of my lineup,” Sutherland said. “Having two kids like that come in makes our team a lot stronger right off the bat.”
Adding both talents fills the void left after the departure of Holmes. According to Sutherland, facing off against their former No. 1 later in the season is an exciting concept.
“Sam was great,” he said. “We’ll miss him, but I’m really happy that he got a chance to transfer in to St. Francis and it’ll be fun to face him.
“You never know what’s going to happen. Maybe we’ll have a little extra going when we play him.”
Despite missing the state finals over the past two years, expectations are high going into the season.
“I’m spoiled,” Sutherland said. “I feel like I want to go to states every year.”
According to Sutherland, the 2012 Leelanau tennis team has all the qualities you look for in a team ready to make a serious tournament run.
“We’ve had some relatively young and inexperienced teams the last two years,” he said. “But this is one of those teams that come along that you feel like you have the right mix of experience, talent, enthusiasm.
“The sky is the limit. They’re hard workers, they love the game and I think we’re going to have a real successful season.”