NEWPORT–With the season getting underway this afternoon, the North Country boys tennis team is ripe with promise.
"We've got a good blend of upper and underclassman this year," said head coach Gary Atchinson.
Said senior Maoz Knight, "It looks good. A lot of the guys have gotten better, and we have all improved. I think we should be pretty good."
The team finished 4-9 and missed the tourney last season, but with a very balanced team in 2012, Atchinson is feeling good about this year's chances.
"I think as long as we play good tennis we can get some good results in the win loss column," said the coach.
The team features three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
Eighty percent of the squad is made up of returning players from the 2011 campaign, with junior Kody Halikas and freshman Peter Steuwe being the two new faces on the team.
As it stands right now, with not enough time for play-downs with their opening match this afternoon, no decision as to where each player will be slotted this season has been made.
But, with a strong balance of skill up and down the roster, competition for positioning should be fierce.
"It looks like it is going to be a real dogfight when we get to play-downs. Everybody seems to be right there as there is a lot of parity on the team," said Atchinson.
Dave Durivage, last year's number one, will again be in the top position today when the boys square off against Mount Mansfield.
However, according to Atchinson, he may not be there to stay if someone else is playing better.
"He has got to show that he has earned that before we settle into our regular line-up."
Durivage is coming off a tough off-season that had him recuperating from shoulder and collar bone injuries suffered during a mountain biking accident.
As he makes his way back into game form, he has set reasonable goals for himself in 2012.
"I hope to break .500 this year and do a little better than last season, seeing as how a lot of players (I faced) from last year have moved on."
Moving through the rest of the roster, it is anybody's guess at this point.
Knight, Zachary Tweed, Andrew Medley, and Steve Raboin played at multiple positions last year, and as of now Maoz could be the one making a full time switch to singles, possibly in either the four or five slot.
The number two and three spots might come down to a battle of the sophomores. Thomas Durivage, Travers Parson-Grayson and Fred Petzoldt are all candidates to fill those positions.
Halikas still needs to get in five more practices before he is game eligible, but the junior says he is feeling good and that his collar bone is ready to go after being damaged during the hockey season.
That leaves the freshman Steuwe as the last player still needing to find a position. With Halikas out, Peter will should be playing in today's match against the Cougars, possibly in the second doubles position.
To the coach, it does not matter really where people are playing, as long as they are playing well.
"All the points count as one. Whether it is first singles or second doubles, they are all equal. We can cover a lot of positions all the way down through."
The lone new variable is the new court surface at Prouty Beach. The surface plays slow, which will force the Falcons to construct their points through longer rallys instead of a one or two volley score.
The boys get their season, and the North Country spring sports season as a hole, underway this afternoon at 3:30 on the re-surfaced courts of Prouty Beach, squaring off against the aforementioned MMU Cougars.