HUNTERTOWN — While he didn’t lose a single postseason player to graduation last year, Carroll Head Tennis Coach Kyle Stoffel knew this year’s lineup was going to change. And despite one of his players suffering an injury just a few days before practices started, he doesn’t see much more holding his team back this season.
“I don’t know if I can say one position is the position I rely on, because I feel really good about all of the positions this year,” Stoffel said last week ahead of the fall boys season.
Change was inevitable this year as the team returns senior Kyle Hoerr, who played two singles at the start of the 2018 season before sitting out the majority of last year’s matches due to an injury. Though doubles assignments are yet to be finalized, Stoffel expects Hoerr to be in the mix this season. Two singles will also see its third new face in two years with Griffin Martin, a rising freshman, stepping up to the position. Martin will fill a vacancy at singles left by Grant Newman, a junior who suffered a foot injury Aug. 3 and is expected to sit out the entire season.
“(Grant’s injury) is bad, but at the same time we’ve got Kyle Hoerr back, and Griffin Martin will be really good at two,” Stoffel said. “The injury gives us someone else on the team who didn’t play varsity last year an opportunity to play, so if you want to try and find a silver lining in it, that’s about the best you can do.”
At three singles, Stoffel also expects good things out of Josh Jackson, a junior who played one doubles last season. Jackson and fellow teammate Max Carmody, who played three singles for the Chargers through the 2018 postseason, spent the entire summer at North Central High School playing 30 hours a week in preparation of the high school season, “and it shows,” Stoffel said.
“I’m feeling really good right now about all three singles positions, and once the dust settles at doubles I think we’ll be pretty good.” he added.
Senior Luke Stoffel will return to lead the Chargers for his second year in a row at the top singles position this season. Last year, he posted a 19-5 record and garnered a first team all-state nod — an honor awarded to only 15 players in the state each year.
“We didn’t have any seniors last year, so I still felt like I was kind of a leader for the team, but this year I’m happy to be in that spot again and I think I’ll do just as good if not better than last year,” Luke Stoffel said. “I played a lot harder competition than in years before. Most schools’ (one singles) is usually pretty solid so I have to put on a good example for the other guys and win my match.”
The Chargers won their first sectional title in four years in 2018, defeating Leo in the championship match. The Lions — Carroll’s toughest sectional opponent in recent years — will have a rebuilding year of sorts after losing several of last season’s senior leaders. That being said, the Chargers are placing their bets on another title year.
“Leo was our main competition and they’ve lost all their really strong guys, and we’ve gained a few, so we’re really confident for sectionals,” Luke Stoffel said. “Griffin, our freshman, has worked really hard and I think he’ll be a solid two, and wherever Kyle ends up at doubles I think that’s a good spot for him because I think he’s more of a doubles player. And with Josh at three, he worked super hard in the offseason and played tennis all summer, so I think we’ll be even better than last year.”
The team expects another round of fierce competition at regional this season, with a strong Homestead team returning nearly its entire lineup from last year. During the 2018 regional championship, the No. 2 Spartans blanked Carroll 5-0.
“Homestead will be our challenge at regional,” Coach Stoffel said. “They’ve got a very nice team, but it’s not a slam dunk to beat us so it should be a good match. We’re feeling good with the teams at sectional, but the farther you go the more interesting it gets.”
The Chargers will open play with an away match at Leo Aug. 21.