2021 CHS boys’ tennis Hornets totally devoid of varsity vets
Veteran coach Long has only eight players on roster
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
From 1993-2008, Chillicothe High School’s boys’ tennis team finished either first or second in the Midland Empire Conference team standings every year. On 11 occasions in that 16-years span, they claimed the title, although under different determining standards than now on most of those occasions.
As recently as 2015, current head coach Bob Long’s second season in charge of the conference’s then-premier boys’ racquet program, the Hornets claimed a third team crown in four years.
My, how things have changed – and how quickly.
Prior to the COVID-19-canceled 2020 season, the net Hornets had been no higher than third place and as low as sixth in the prior four campaigns, even though that span did still include a district team title and a runnerup finish in 2019.
Now, as the Hornets return to competition for the first time since dropping the 2019 district-tourney title match at Trenton, they do so not only with recently-sagging results – at least within the conference paradigm, but with flagging turnout that includes not one player with any previous varsity-level experience and only eight team members total.
All seven players who competed at the varsity level some time during 2019 were either seniors or juniors. With 2020 wiped out, that translates to zip, zilch, nada varsity experience among the extremely-limited number of 2021 Chillicothe players.
Of the eight candidates for lineup spots, only brothers senior Caleb and junior Chace Corbin have played a competitive high school match previously, both on the junior-varsity level in 2019.
“The challenge is experience,” Long, in a massive understatement, reflected for the C-T in previewing his seventh season at the Hornets’ helm.
“For example: (Senior) Carter Allen will play No. 3 or 4 singles and his (lineup-ladder) ‘challenge’ match late last week was the first meaningful match he has ever played.” Long notes Allen reports having played tennis some on his own while middle-school age.
The Hornets have to hope familiarity/friendship and bloodlines count for something positive.
The Corbins and Allen have been multi-years teammates and contributors to the success of CHS’ soccer Hornets in the fall season, so they’ll bring a mutual trust and support system to the mix.
Meanwhile, junior Emmett Young and sophomore Gabe Peterson are younger brothers of former Hornets varsity players Johnson Young and Grant and Garrett Peterson. Along with the other non-freshman – 10th grader Shayden Hawkins, they figure to comprise the bottom half of the singles lineup at season’s start.
Barring last-minute injury or other problem, junior Ch. Corbin was on track to begin the season playing No. 1 singles, presumably to be paired with his brother, No. 2 singles player Caleb, in No. 1 doubles.
“Chace has been working on his game,” Long says of the small, quick 11th grader who emerged as one of the top players on the soccer Hornets during the fall. “He will be competitive with the best players in our conference.”
“Caleb and Carter make us competitive at the top of our (singles) lineup,” the coach predicts.
Who partners with Allen at No. 2 doubles and who comprises the No. 3 tandem were still being determined at week’s start.
Rounding out the roster and initially ticketed for junior-varsity singles action are freshmen Austin Lyford and Anthony Trantham. However, the coach notes they’ll be forced to play some varsity action in a tournament or two, so he’ll likely spot them in some varsity doubles competition relatively soon.
“It's crucial to prepare the new players to be ready, in case someone is unable to play on a given day, as well as for the (St. Joseph:) Benton Tournament, which requires eight players” to have a full lineup.
Lyford moved to Chillicothe around the start of the 2020-21 school year and ran cross country during the fall, fairly quickly cementing a spot in the varsity lineup and often finishing in the upper half of that group, so he should bring some endurance to the challenge, at least.
The 2021 Chillicothe tennis Hornets were due to start play Tuesday (March 20) in a dual match at Carrollton. On Thursday, they are scheduled to have their first MEC dual at Savannah. Both of those are 4 p.m. starts.