Vikings covet another shot at regional tennis title |

Vikings covet another shot at regional tennis title

Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneReturning players for the South Tahoe High boys' tennis team include, from left, Kolton Van Pelt, Bryan Holmes, Gregory Baghdikian, Michael Bott, Jack Percival, Phillip Gaston, Colton Marchesseault, Grant Jones and Francisco Marin. Not pictured is returner Hayden Bronken.

After a surprising appearance in last year’s boys’ tennis regional finals, South Tahoe High coach Justin Clark is encouraging his players to approach the 2010 season with “big feet,” not large heads.

“Big shoes to fill,” Clark said.

Even though the Vikings welcome back a large junior class and are deep down to the freshman level, Clark doesn’t want his program to become content with the school’s first regional championship appearance in 16 years. The Vikings lost to Reno in last year’s championship, just missing out on a spot in the state tournament

“This team might be more talented than the ’09 team, but I’m waiting to see if they can take on the responsibility of a championship team,” Clark said. “I’m really excited about trying to develop the youngsters into young men and developing and taking the responsibility of helping the upperclassmen go out with a bang.”

Doubles play was the strength of last year’s Vikings’ team and many of those players return. In the regional semifinal win over Truckee last October, South Tahoe won all nine doubles matches.

Senior Phillip Gaston and juniors Colton Marchesseault, Kolton Van Pelt and Grant Jones were consistent doubles winners last year. Gaston will shift to singles play for his senior year and junior singles player Francisco Marin brings experience to that position.

“I’ve practicing hard all summer to try and get in the mode of singles,” Gaston said. “I’ll try my best to lead this team, even though it will be playing against hard opponents.”

Gaston, a four-year varsity player, and fellow senior Michael Bott are embracing their important roles in leading the Vikings.

“If the team is slacking, we’ll pick up the pace and make them work harder,” Bott said.

As past South Tahoe players have learned, Clark isn’t hesitant to switch up his starting lineups and pairings.

“It always changes throughout the season based on abilities and how the season is going. It’s a team event and trying to win those events,” Clark said.

Bott said that Clark pulled the Vikings out of midseason funk last year with some extra exercise.

“Lots of running. We spent a lot of time running after (losing to Incline) and that got us into shape,” Bott said.

“We have to push them and make them work harder like we did last year,” added Gaston.

Clark is ecstatic about his contingent of six freshman. All six are vying for a starting spot, according to Clark, with Grant Fagen, Chad Kaassamani, Colton McHugh, Tyler Cottrill, Kyle Swain and Ryan Piazzo forming the foundation of future teams.

South Tahoe’s tennis league remained unchanged by realignment, so the Vikings will continue to compete against the Reno and Sparks schools. Unlike last year, the Northern division will earn two berths to the state tournament.

“The only way the team can do this is if the whole team wants to do this and work to attain it,” Clark said. “It’s not up to the coach to do that. He can position players, but if they don’t understand how to work hard get to that point, it’s tough.

“You’ve got to have the whole team wanting to go in one direction, and that’s what was so neat about last year’s team. That team really played well together, and that is what we are searching for this year.”

Bott said this team is again capable of knocking off the larger schools like it did last year against Bishop Manogue.

“Our singles is stronger than last year, and our doubles is stronger, too,” he said.

Clark is hoping his team can appreciate and benefit from Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s funding for new tennis courts. The Vikings are scheduled to play on the new courts sometime in September.

“It will be nice to not talk about the bad spots on the court to the other teams and be proud of our courts, and couple that with a strong tennis team is even better,” said Clark, lauding the teamwork of Dr. James Tarwater, Steve Morales, the STHS administration and construction crews for making the project happen. “When you get something nice it makes you want to respect the fact that they put money into your program.”

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