ROCKFORD – Rebuilding was the key word for the Rockford boys tennis team this season. With several new starters in the lineup, the Rams were low on experience.
Although inexperienced, Rockford showed plenty of promise as it turned in a winning season.
The young Rams played solid tennis this year, turning in a 3-2-1 record in OK Red Conference play. The Rams also placed third at the conference tournament and finished third at the Division 1 regional, just missing out on a trip to the state finals.
“This season went well,” said Rockford coach Tom Huizing. “We had a lot of new faces on the team this year. The guys worked hard and put a lot of time and effort into their games. We were extremely competitive this year. We had a good chance at the end, but just fell a little short.”
This year’s squad included eight new starters in the lineup. The new starters replaced a large group of seniors from a senior class that advanced to the state finals the previous three years.
The new starters adapted well to varsity competition, as the Rams turned in several strong performances throughout the season. Rockford finished second at the Forest Hills Eastern, Holly, and Sturgis invitationals, and placed third at the Elliot Pearce Invitational at Forest Hills Central.
“We placed second at a lot of tournaments, and that was the story of our year,” Huizing said. “We were just a little bit behind as far as experience goes.
“With eight new varsity starters on the team, there is a learning curve. We were just a little short on experience. The guys played hard. The majority of our guys made the semifinals or finals at every tournament. We just didn’t have a lot of experience.”
The No. 1 doubles team of juniors Matthew Hall and Ryan Blackburn turned in a standout season, as they finished runner-up at both the conference and the regional meet. The No. 3 doubles team of junior Will Lewis and sophomore Caleb Werdon turned in a 23-6 record.
“Our No. 1 doubles team played extremely well all season,” Huizing said. “Our No. 3 doubles team consisted of first-year varsity players, and they were definitely a bright spot this year. They never shied away from competition.”
In singles play, sophomore TJ Maskell held down the No. 1 singles spot for the Rams.
“TJ has all the talent in the world,” Huizing said. “He is still working on honing his game. He is one of the biggest hitters in the area. He is still working on putting the pieces together and is going to be one of the top players in the area.”
The good news for the Rams is that the experience gained this year will pay dividends next season.
“I’m excited to see how this team does next year, after playing a varsity season for the first time,” Huizing said.
The Rams were also in the thick of what was a closely-contested OK Red Conference race this season.
“It was a great year for the OK Red,” Huizing said. “I give a lot of credit to Hudsonville, who qualified for the state finals for the first time in school history. Their coach, Matt Tanis, put in a lot of years getting them ready to qualify for the state finals.
“Also, Tim Buck at Grandville did a heck of a job qualifying them for state. They have nine seniors on the team, and I’m sure they are excited to make it to state. I look forward to both of those teams representing the West Side of the state at the finals.”