Former Newton boys tennis coach Clyde Wiley ended his 40-plus year coaching career after last season, and it's only fitting that one of his former players step in behind him.
Seth Banwell, who also serves as the Cardinals' bowling coach, is just that player. Except instead of focusing on spares and strikes like he did this winter, he'll turn his attention to aces and spikes this spring.
"I've always wanted to be the head coach, so this was a great opportunity for me to step in," said Banwell, who also served as an assistant with the Newton girls tennis team last season.
Banwell faces something of a challenge this season in replacing six seniors from last year. Losing that many players is already tough, but considering they were also the team's top six players, that makes things a bit tougher.
"This is going to be quite the rebuilding year with a fresh set of guys playing singles," Banwell said. "We've faced a lot of adversity with the weather and we couldn't practice through parent-teacher conferences. But we're going to stay positive and keep working hard in practice."
Even practicing has been a challenge for the Cardinals due to the uncooperative weather all of the spring teams have been dealing with. The Cardinals will only have five days of practice under their belts when they kick off their season at a tournament in West Des Moines on Saturday, but plenty of other teams could have that same amount, or even less, depending on where in the state they hale from.
“We’ve been doing a lot of conditioning indoors, but that doesn’t really set us up for competition,” Banwell said. “I think our competition will be in the same boat, but it will still be tough.”
At the tournament, Newton will trot out the top six players of Sebastian Peters, Spencer Hook, Ben Van Dalen, Nate Hinshaw, Kyle Portner and Brian Jones. Most, if not all of this year’s top six saw varsity time last season, even if it was just doubles action. Peters enters the season as the No. 1 player in singles, although Banwell praised Van Dalen’s recent development in the shortened practice time.
“We’ve got some returning faces and that experince will definitely be an asset,” Banwell said. “Ben Van Dalen has really come a long way. He’s really excelled over the past couple of weeks, so I expect some great things out of him.”
The Cardinals’ lineup likely won’t change too much, as only a few underclassmen fill out the roster. Things could always be worse, however, as conference foe Pella Christian reportedly may not be fielding a team at all due to low numbers. Newton will play five home matches at Aurora Heights Park this season.