With only one senior graduating in 2020 and a drop to Class 1A coming, Newton’s boys’ tennis team has a lot to be excited about this spring.
The 2020 season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Cardinals bring back a plethora of experience in 2021.
And new head coach Jared Gerber has been pleasantly surprised with how well his team looks after just a few days of practice.
“We haven’t gotten to be outside very much because of weather and we haven’t been all together much because of Spring Break, but we are hitting it better than I thought we’d be at this point,” Gerber said.
Gerber takes over for John Bieber after serving as his assistant the past three seasons. He will not have an assistant coach in 2021.
Gerber played tennis in high school for Pella and went on to play collegiately for NCAA D-II Cedarville University in Ohio.
“I love seeing kids learn tennis,” Gerber said. “It’s a sport you can play for the rest of your life.”
Gerber will start his first season at the helm with 15 players. And six of those players got valuable varsity experience two years ago when the Cardinals went 4-6 in dual meets and 1-4 in conference play.
Newton tied for third place as a team in the 2019 Class 2A district tournament but lost an opportunity to advance in the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
The Cardinals drop to 1A for postseason play this season. That means they avoid facing powerhouse big-school programs and will likely see conference schools for districts.
“The kids voiced that right away when I told them,” Gerber said. “They know the situation. There is more motivation and excitement because of that for sure.”
The top four players this season, according to Gerber, will be seniors Thomas Hodnett and Trent Hamand and juniors Blake Baumgartner and John Valtman.
The lineup has not been set yet, but Gerber expects those four to hold down the top four spots in the singles’ lineup with seniors William Muckler and Landon Heisdorffer playing in the final two varsity singles’ positions.
The 2021 season will officially feature a different No. 1 player for the first time in four years after Brady Eberline and Collin Hemann shared that spot for three years.
“This group gets a long super well, they have good chemistry and they support each other well,” Gerber said. “We just don’t have a lot of playing experience at the top of the lineup.”
Hamand was 3-4 overall from the No. 4 singles position in 2019. Baumgartner finished 3-3 overall, going 2-2 from No. 5 singles and 1-1 from No. 6 singles. Hodnett was 0-1 from No. 5 singles and 2-2 from No. 6 singles.
A handful of players are in the mix for the final four varsity spots, including seniors Kyler Van Brogen and Owen Sanger, juniors Landon Rae and Cayden Jackson and sophomore Lance Banwell.
The rest of the roster includes junior Tyler Sterling and freshmen David Holmes, Seth Adams and Andrew Wiles.
Varsity Boys Tennis Schedule
April 5 — Boone, 4:15 p.m.
April 9 — Marshalltown (DM North), 12:30 p.m.
April 13 — Pella Christian, 4:15 p.m.
April 20 — Indianola, 4:15 p.m.
April 22 — Norwalk, 4:15 p.m.
April 24 — Atlantic Invitational, 9 a.m.
April 27 — Oskaloosa, 4:15 p.m.
April 29 — Grinnell, 4:15 p.m.
April 30 — South Tama County, 4:15 p.m.
May 4 — Pella, 4:15 p.m.
May 6 — Saydel, 4:15 p.m.
May 10 — LHC meet at Grinnell, 9 a.m.
May 12 — Districts, 9 a.m., TBA
Home matches in bold