The Hannibal boys tennis team features fresh faces from top to bottom of the varsity lineup.
The Hannibal boys tennis team will be full of fresh faces in the varsity lineup this season.
The top eight spots on the Pirates roster are up for grabs as everyone who held those positions last season either graduated or departed the program.
Hannibal coach Bob Catalpa has been using preseason practice to reshape his squad.
“We've got a lot of challenge matches coming up and just seeing where we fit,” Catalpa said. “Usually you have an idea, and I kind of do, but there are people that I'm not sure about because they haven't had a lot of match experience. We have a lot of even players. These guys are close.”
Hannibal opens the new season with a home match against Fulton at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20.
The Pirates look to build upon last year's 4-10 record and fifth-place finish in the North Central Missouri Conference.
Luke Boyd, Donovan Mefford and Caleb Newlon are the lone seniors on the youthful squad.
Also in the mix are underclassmen including sophomores Ethan Bross and Austin Brown as well as juniors Collin Poage, Nick Tompkins and Noah Evans.
Tristen Terrill is a freshman expected to make an impact.
Bross is the top returning singles player from a year ago. Despite the winter weather in recent weeks, he mentioned the team has been making strides.
“It's pretty cold out so practices get a little tough sometimes,” Bross said. “The other day it was snowing. That wasn't fun, but it's great to come out here and get better every day.”
Bross and Luke Boyd were a bright spot for Hannibal at the NCMC Tournament last May, when they won the No. 2 doubles bracket.
Poage and Brown also claimed the No. 3 doubles title at the same competition.
“Austin (Brown) and I play super well together,” Poage said. “We should do really well in doubles. Last year we were beating our competition really bad. Now we want to get to state. That's my top priority this season.”
A year after now-graduated Austin Taylor was the only player to advance through the first round of individual districts, the Pirates view the youth of their roster as a positive.
“We're all young so we've got a few years to get really good,” Bross said. “I feel like in a couple years, we're all going to be studs. I'm excited for what's coming.”
The tests will come quickly for Hannibal, which plays five matches over the first 10 days of the regular season, including four against conference opponents.
“We have a bunch of matches right in a row,” Catalpa said. “We have a lot of conference right away. It will be good just to see where we're at.”