Seniors Joe Karlinski, Austin Taylor, Caleb Northcutt, Adam Ledbetter and Caleb Lionberger are in contention for top spots on the Hannibal tennis team.

Hannibal tennis coach Bob Catalpa has a strong idea of who the top contributors on his squad will be this season.

Seniors Joe Karlinski, Austin Taylor, Caleb Northcutt, Adam Ledbetter and Caleb Lionberger are in contention for top spots.

The order in which they’ll compete remains more of a mystery.

“My top five is pretty even,” Catalpa said. “We don’t have a for-sure 1, 2, 3. We know the grouping, but we don’t really know the order. The last couple years, the top couple were clear from the beginning.”

The Pirates enter the year without their top four players from last season, when the team finished 10-8 and placed second to Marshall in the North Central Missouri Conference.

Hannibal begins its 2017 campaign with a match at Fulton at 4 p.m. on March 21.

“Winning conference would be big,” Karlinski said. “I think we always practice hard and try to get the best out of each other. We’re putting in a lot of hard work. We’ve got a lot of potential.”

Catalpa, in his third season as head coach, said his squad possesses strength in numbers. The program includes 31 players this year — a slight uptick from last season.

“We do a pretty good job really just getting players out,” he said, “and they get along pretty well for the most part.”

Taylor said he takes it upon himself and the other seniors to lead the program to success while setting foundation for the years to come.

His love for the game is what he credits as his motivation to put in hours of work to prepare for his senior season.

“I really love the competitiveness of (the game),” he said. “It has a really
simple dynamic, but still at the same time has a little bit of complexity to it.”