With a sly smile, Nithish Raja said this year’s boys varsity tennis team is “thinking about going undefeated.”
“It’s going to be hard,” said Nithish, the team’s senior captain, “but we’re pretty confident.”
“Yikes, ambitious,” joked Head Coach Ryan Tyree. “But I like the confidence.”
The laugh from both implied that, while they in fact may not sweep the league this year, the team does have reason to feel prepared to take on the array of tough challengers, including Northfield Mount Hermon, Berkshire School, and Loomis Chaffee. [The team plays its first match Saturday, April 7 against The Gunnery.]
“[The team is] probably the best it’s been in my four years here,” Nithish, 18, explained. “We have lots of depth; in past years, when only the top two or three or four were good, this year, everyone’s on the same level.”
(In any given competition, each school sends its top six players; the first round consists of three doubles matches, followed by six singles matches.)
That dispersal of skill across the team, Nithish added, “gives us the chance to compete against teams we had near losses against last year.”
Those losses, during last year’s 6-6 season, included close matches against NMH and Berkshire. The team’s depth, in addition to a strong top six and seasoned coaching from Tyree, will keep the Wildcats a team to watch. The top six includes freshman Nikhil Sierros, junior Ethan Dursht, Nitish, sophomore Joey Nolte, junior Joey Robbins, and the current top seed, sophomore Kenneth Wang, from Amherst, who Nithish said is “on a different level.”
“We’re a young team,” Nithish said. “Next year we’re losing only me and Joey Nolte; we’ll still have our top players, plus Vishnu Sekar.” (Vishnu is current a junior; Joey Nolte, from Hamburg, Germany, is spending the year at Williston before heading back home. Nithish is headed to Drexel University, where he says he may try to join either the tennis or squash team as a walk on.)
Tyree, in his sixth year at the helm, has hopes for this year’s team based on its depth and talent all the way from the top seed down.
“Since we have only one senior and landed with two talented new members–Nolte and Dursht,” Tyree explained, “this means the depth of our ladder is the strongest it’s been in my time here.”
“We’re going to be able to get wins in more positions on the ladder than in year’s past,” Tyree added.
Tyree said his team is looking forward to facing Cheshire, Deerfield, and three teams his players have never beaten in his time as coach: Loomis, Berkshire, and Avon Old Farms.
“I’m really excited to see how much we’ll be able to accomplish against those squads,” he said. “I’ve never won against any of those teams, so this year’s our chance.”