KINGSTON — Kingston High School boys tennis coach Ken Crawford couldn’t wipe the smile off his face Tuesday while watching players volley back and forth on a picture perfect afternoon.
“I’m pretty psyched for the season to start,” he said. “We have a good group of kids out for the team this year.”
As of press time, the Buccaneers only have 10 athletes on the roster. Crawford hopes to add a few more players by Sept. 7, when the regular season begins.
“Right now we only have 10, and we need 11 players to fill out a varsity team,” he said. “There’s three singles teams and four doubles teams on the varsity,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get a few more kids out here.”
Despite the lack of athletes on the roster, competition for the top spots on the varsity has been fierce, Crawford said.
“For the last couple of practices players have competed in challenges. This is where they go against each other to see who is the best,” he said. “This determines who our No. 1 players, No. 2 players and No. 3 players are. They are responding to the challenge.”
Crawford said he’s enjoyed the intensity his players have exhibited during challenges.
“Just by watching the first couple of challenge matches, I realized our team is much stronger than I realized,” he said. “I expect our team to win a lot of matches this year.”
Crawford said the first week of practice focused on the basics.
“We’ve been working on forehands and backhands,” he said. “As we get closer to the season we’ll work on perfecting our serves. The key to success in tennis is being able to get the ball to hit the corners.”
The practices have also given the coach reason to smile. Crawford said he’s noticed the natural ability several players, including junior Jerol Bird.
“I would say he has a strong possibility of being our No. 1 singles player,” he said. “He’s great at stroking the ball, places the ball well and has some speed out there.”
Bird said his high arching serve is his best individual attribute between the white lines of the court.
“My serve, it just works,” he said. “My goal this year is to be more consistent and become an all around better player.”
Bird said Crawford is putting the Buccaneers players through strenuous workouts during the preseason.
“We’re going through plenty of conditioning activities, but they are a lot of fun,” he said. “Hopefully our team will win a bunch of matches and have a good year.”
Senior Chris Hall said the majority of KHS tennis players participated in off-season workouts for three weeks beginning at the end of July in preparation for the first day of practice Aug. 20.
“A whole bunch of us played almost every day at courts in Indianola. We really started to play a lot by the end of summer,” he said. “Most of the seniors live within five minutes of each other. Everyday it was like, ‘Do you want to go play tennis today?’ We kept on playing and ended up hitting the courts hard this summer.”
Hall said the offseason workouts will pay dividends this season.
“I’m glad we played so much because most of us didn’t get to play during the winter and spring time. We didn’t get in the practice time we would have liked to,” he said. “We made up for it this summer.”
The Bucs will compete in the 2A/3A Olympic League during the 2007-08 school year.
“I don’t know the kind of competition we’ll face in the Olympic League but I think we have the ability to be competitive,” Hall said. “Hopefully we’ll be a contender.”