The season the Overland boys tennis team has been waiting for is finally here.
Veteran coach Arlandus Lowe has an extra twinkle in his eye when he talks about the Trailblazers’ singles ranks going into the 2015 season, as former freshman phenom Draden Hoover is back in the fold as a junior.
Hoover, a Class 5A state tournament qualifier in 2013 as a freshman, rejoined the team after missing last season in order to play in a national tournament that would have conflicted with the high school postseason. He joins sophomore David Kijak and senior Paul Kim to form the most talented trio of singles players Lowe’s had in a long, long time.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve had that feeling that we’ve got the opportunity to get multiple kids into the state tournament,” Lowe said. “It’s exciting to have them all together for the first time and with their ages, we can keep it going for another year or two.
After the season, the Trailblazers will graduate Kim — a four-year varsity singles players who will move down from the No. 2 position (where he placed third in regionals last season) to No. 3 — but Hoover and Kijak should remain.
Hoover became the youngest regional champion Overland has ever had in tennis, boys or girls, when he won the 5A Region 7 tournament in 2013 and snapped a state drought for the program that stretched back to 2006.
With another year of maturity that is noticeable both in his approach as well as his physical appearance — “we try to imagine what he was like a freshman; he has filled out a little bit more and gotten a lot taller,” Lowe said — Hoover is eager to get back in high school tennis.
But to get the No. 1 singles position back, he had to go through his good friend Kijak, who won 10 matches in that spot last season, but lost in regionals to fall short of state. The challenge match between the two went decidedly to Hoover in terms of score, but was a tight battle according to Lowe.
What will make it difficult for Overland to win many dual matches this season is the fact that its doubles group is virtually devoid of experience, though there is athleticism and several multi-sport athletes.
Cherokee Trail’s rise on the courts continues with a very veteran group that has its own set of talented singles players in No. 1 Dylan Zumar, a junior, and seniors Cameron Bergan (No. 2) and David Lai (No. 3), who all have 5A state tournaments under their belts, two in the case of Bergan and Lai.
Doubles players Colin Richardson, Logan Schwanz and Rahul Verma all played at the Gates Tennis Center last season as well for coach Liz (Siegel) Creamer, who believes her veteran group could unseat Arapahoe for the No. 2 spot in the Centennial League behind powerhouse Cherry Creek.
Creamer is scheduled to go on maternity leave in late September, so she’ll cede coaching duties to Brad Dorais and Eric Olsen-Dufour at that time.
Grandview also entertains hopes of a second-place finish in the Centennial League, as coach Jeff Ryan features a mix of experience and depth that could do it.
The Wolves won all seven championship matches at the season-opening Eaglecrest Invitational in what they hope is a tone setter.
Grandview features returning state qualifiers in the No. 2 doubles team of senior Chris Burris and sophomore Matt Yan, a strong singles group of sophomore Illijah Bailey, junior Nate Hillier and senior Ben Warren and other emerging doubles pairs.
Smoky Hill graduated all of its singles players and three of its top four doubles players, so coach Jeff Davis is starting fresh. Seniors Mason Martin and Sam Nobil should fill out the top of the lineup.
Aurora’s most consistent and storied tennis powerhouse still resides as Regis Jesuit, where coach Laura Jones is having her annual headaches figuring out who will play where due to an abundance of talent and depth.
The Raiders return three players who played in 5A state championship matches last season in reigning No. 4 doubles champions Luca Abbott, a junior, and senior Max Koszowski, along with senior Steven Bummer, who lost in the No. 3 doubles final with now-graduated partner Truett Davis.
Add in returning state qualifiers in seniors Chanon Penvari and Koszowski’s twin brother, Tommy, plus junior Erich Nuss and sophomore Patrick Seby and the Raiders have plenty to reckon with.
Rangeview continues to be the only school to field at boys tennis team in the Aurora Public Schools district and features a diverse mix of players that has a challenging schedule ahead according to coach Zeb Carabello.
Singles players Matthew Chedid (No. 1), Tremayne Joiner (No. 2) and Daniel Eguiluz (No. 3) lead the way for the Raiders with experience, while doubles players Jacob Stockinger, Tim Chang and Jorian Marshall all progressed significantly over the summer.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
For more key dates and information for the 2015 season, click here
2015 AURORA BOYS TENNIS PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aurora players to watch: Luca Abbott, Regis Jesuit, jr.*!; Illijah Bailey, Grandview, soph.; Cameron Bergan, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Steven Bummer, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Chris Burris, Grandview, sr.*; Tim Chang, Rangeview, jr.; Matthew Chedid, Rangeview, jr.; Daniel Eguiluz, Rangeview, sr.; Andy Hansman, Eaglecrest, jr.; Nate Hillier, Grandview, jr.; Draden Hoover, Overland, jr.; Tremayne Joiner, Rangeview, sr.; David Kijak, Overland, soph.; Paul Kim, Overland, sr.; Max Koszowki, Regis Jesuit, sr.*!; Tommy Koszowki, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; David Lai, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Jorian Marshall, Rangeview, soph.; Mason Martin, Smoky Hill, sr.; Sam Nobil, Smoky Hill, sr.; Erich Nuss, Regis Jesuit, jr.*.; Eric Paricio, Smoky Hill, sr.; Chanon Penvari, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Colin Richardson, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Logan Schwanz, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Patrick Seby, Regis Jesuit, soph.*; Jacob Stockinger, Rangeview, jr.; Christian Sunblade, Eaglecrest, sr.; Cooper Tedstrom, Eaglecrest, jr.; Rahul Verma, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Ben Warren, Grandview, sr.; Matt Yan, Grandview, soph.*; Dylan Zumar, Cherokee Trail, jr.*
* — Returning 5A state qualifier; ! — Returning 5A state champion.