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The Marion County Knights boys' tennis team headed to Hodgenville to open up their 2012 season on Friday night against LaRue County. The Knights found success, and defeated the Hawks by an overall score of 4-1. Heading into the season, first year Head Coach Landon Williams knew that he would be returning a large group of key players.
"The boys' team returns seven players from last year's team, which performed at a high level," he said. "I'm anxious to see what this season has in store."
Coach Williams has turned to current and former coaches for advice.
"Coach Holt and former coach Chase Burdette both have been enormously helpful in getting started," he said. "The regular season record for the boys' team last season was 15-2, and that's a difficult task to improve on when you consider what we accomplished last season."
Some key players that Williams expects to make an impact are senior Noah Swencki, junior Jacob Burdette, and freshman Alex Spalding.
"The doubles team of Swencki and Burdette are a team I get asked about a lot by people who follow tennis statewide," Coach Williams said. "They enjoy playing doubles and it's rare to see high school players who understand doubles strategy and who can execute so well."
Swencki and Burdette are also solid singles players and will need to continue strong play throughout the season, Coach Williams commented.
"In a 5-point match it can be risky to put them together to play doubles because I can split them up and get the extra point," he said.
Williams went on to comment on the play of Alex Spalding.
"This kid has a bright future and is ranked in the low 40's in his USTA age group," he said. "A player like this at the No. 3 singles spot gives the team depth and Alex is as steady as they come for a player his age."
Freshman Ryker Cassidy and junior Durbin Richardson received praise from Coach Williams as well.
"He's long and he will cover the court well when he learns how to move correctly and explode," Williams said. "His size 14 shoes don't help a great deal when it comes to getting his feet moving quickly on the court. I'd say Durbin is the most competitive player on the team and has a super work ethic. Durbin has one gear and if we can learn to keep up with him, then we'll be in good shape. He's a very mature young man and we'll rely on him."
Other players Coach Williams mentioned were Michael Spalding, eighth grader Jonah Gillespie, senior Jesus Beranga, senior Patrick Knopp, and sophomore Brandon Blandford.
"We have plenty of room for improvement, but we're also at a good starting point," he said. "We want to compete with everybody make a lot of noise. Kids are showing an interest in the program and we've gotten a couple of off-season basketball players to come out and give the sport a try."
Significant matches for the team this season will include Elizabethtown, Central Hardin, Casey County, and Lexington Christian Academy, according to Coach Williams.
"Casey County hasn't lost a regular season match in three years, so they will certainly be a test for us along with the other three," he said.
LaRue County match
In singles action, Noah Swencki took down Ryan Abell, 6-1, 6-3, in No. 1 singles action. In No. 2 singles action, Jacob Burdette defeated Zachary Lee 6-0, 6-0, and Alex Spalding won against Lucas Pepper, 6-0, 6-0, in No. 3 singles action. Jesus Berlanga defeated John Michael Lawler, 9-7, in an exhibition singles match.
The No. 1 doubles team for the Knights, Michael Spalding and Durbin Richardson fell to Trevor Sanders and Keiren Brown, 6-2, 6-1, in Marion County's only loss on the night. Ryker Cassidy and Jonah Gillespie took down Kyler Hart and Ryan Hornbeck, 6-3, 6-1, in No. 2 doubles action.
"I was very pleased with how our team played to open the season," Williams said. "We dropped a match, but we ran into a couple of tough players in the No. 1 doubles match so that team deserves the credit. We'll continue working and trying to improve every day because we will see LaRue County later on."