Freshman William Nelson lays down a crisp volley. (John Fisken photos)
Geoff McClarin gets into the swing of things.
Change is in the air.
As he slides into his tenth season at the helm of the Coupeville High School boys’ tennis program, Wolf coach Ken Stange will have to adjust on the fly.
“Everything is new. New format. New league and opponents. New postseason. New travel,” Stange said. “We will flex, bend, adapt, and grow. We will also make the most out of our situation, good or bad.
“Change can be a bit awkward at times, but I’m ready and willing,” he added. “So are the boys!”
CHS has left behind the 1A/2A Cascade Conference for a newly created 1A Olympic League, and with the move comes a change from the previous match format.
In the past, the Wolves played two singles and three doubles in a varsity match. This year that jumps to three singles and four doubles, opening the way for more players to see varsity court time.
Of course, when you only have three returning letter winners who were full-time varsity players a year ago (seniors Aaron Curtin and Kyle Bodamer and junior Sebastian Davis), that also means you’ll be relying on untested netters a lot of the time.
“That creates more opportunity, but it also means that more players will have to step up,” Stange said. “None of my doubles players have varsity experience, but they will soon get it!”
Curtin, who advanced to state as a doubles player last season, will open as the #1 singles player, with Davis and Bodamer battling for position #2.
The battle for the four doubles slots is an ongoing one.
In the early lead are three tandems – Loren Nelson/Connor McCormick, Grey Rische/Jared Helmstadter and Joseph Wedekind/John McClarin.
A freshman duo of Joey Lippo and William Nelson is also in the mix.
Loren Nelson and McCormick join the three singles players as the only returning lettermen.
“We have 23 guys on the team this year, and most all of them have some experience swinging a racket. That is a plus.” Stange said.
There are only three other squads in the Olympic League, and with Chimacum and Port Townsend playing as a combined squad, that number shrinks even further.
To fill out the schedule, the netters will keep Cascade Conference rivalries alive with South Whidbey and ATM.
The jump in leagues also bumps Coupeville to a different district.
“I don’t quite know what to expect this season,” Stange said. “I’m going to reserve my thoughts about the Olympic League until two things have happened.
“One, we need to complete an entire season, including all aspects related to extra travel,” he added. “Two, now that we have moved from District 1 to District 3, we need to experience a postseason.”
A decade on the job has prepared Stange for just about any twist the season might take, however. As usual, he remains a Zen-like guru who is primarily interested in seeing his players develop to their full potential.
“My goals are every player nurtures and grows their game. Every player enjoys his time on the court,” he said. “Win or lose, every boy plays to the top of his ability and gives his maximum effort.
“On one level, our season will be a success if every player practices to improve, gives strong effort in matches, and enjoys himself while doing it,” Stange added. “On another level, our season will be a success if we can win some doubles matches. I think we will hold our own in singles, but we will need to pick up one-two wins in doubles.”