Bulldogs poised to contend for league boys' tennis title

The Kingman boys' tennis players want to win the Northwest Region title.

Not earth-shattering news since most league teams share the same goal.

But what sets the Bulldogs apart is that they have a viable chance of claiming the crown.

All the pieces are in place with the return of six letter winners — including four seniors — after finishing third in the region last year.

"I'm very encouraged.

There's quite a few of them you can tell put time in in the off-season," KHS coach Darrin Peppard said.

"One of our goals as a team is we truly believe we can contend for a region championship."

Mountain Ridge, which finished fifth last year, returns its entire staff and is tabbed as an early frontrunner and expects to be the Bulldogs' stiffest competition.

Ironwood, which finished the season undefeated, not only has a new coach, but an entirely new lineup.

The Eagles can never be overlooked, however.

"I really feel at the end of last season to where we are now, Mountain Ridge and (Kingman) probably are going to be fighting at the top," Peppard said.

"Deer Valley, I think, graduated four or five from their varsity.

I know they lost their top three.

Honestly, our goal is we want to win the region and at the very least we want to qualify for state."

Peppard has the personnel to accomplish that.

Seniors Bryan Goldberg, RC Waers, Ryan Fruhwirth and Jason House are crucial to the team's success, but the great thing is there's equally talented underclassmen giving the seniors a push.

Goldberg has moved into the top slot vacated by Michael Chan and Waers assumes the No.

2 position.

But juniors David Henz and Jason Amundson have elbowed their way into the varsity line-up at Nos.

3 and 4.

Fruhwirth will play at No.

5.

Sophomore Craig Owen and House are battling for the position at No.

6.

"Craig Owen busted his buns in the off season — he's not the only one — but he looks like he didn't put the racket down since last season," Peppard said.

"Henz and Amundson played some varsity at the end and the opportunity gave them a view of what they could do.

In the off-season, they worked extremely hard and both are playing very well.

"Craig and Jason will have challenge matches."

The Bulldogs should fare well in singles, but doubles is definitely their strength.

During home matches, doubles will be played first.

"We feel we have to win all three doubles matches and we feel we should win all three matches," Peppard said.

"If we can get three doubles wins off the bat and be leading 3-0 going into singles we only have to win two matches.

"I feel that on any day we could win two out of six against anybody."

Goldberg and Waers, who have been together three years and return to No.

1, proved their worth in the league last year with a stunning third-place finish at the region tournament to qualify for state.

They lost in the opening round, but that momentum has followed them into their senior campaign.

"Bryan and R.C.'s goal is to be the No.

1 doubles team in the region and I see it as a very realistic goal for them," Peppard said.

"They both worked very hard in the off-season.

I see big possibilities for them.

Both of their games have come along way.

"I think the biggest thing was their regional tournament.

They were seeded fourth, they go in and beat two doubles team that had played at No.

2 all season.

It think it t showed them that can compete at that level and they can beat kids from Phoenix."

Waers said he and Goldberg are ready to build from last season.

"Brian and me, it's going to be good," Waers said.

"We have the same goals to be region champs."

House and Fruhwirth have also developed chemistry after years together and will return at No.

3 doubles.

Henz and Amundson will play at No.

2

"I'm not going to break Jason and Ryan up, I see no reason to."

Waers not only shines on the doubles court, but has stepped into the leadership role vacated by former No.

1 singles player Michael Chan.

"R.C.

without question has become the leader of this team.

He was kind of starting to take that role last year," Peppard said "I think he's put himself in a position where he's ready to be a leader.

"He and I have talked a lot in the off-season about senior leadership and about what I expect from my seniors.

"We're a very senior-heavy team with four seniors on varsity."

Waers has big plans for the team, which opens action Saturday by hosting Goldwater and Ironwood at 10 a.m.

and 2 p.m, respectively, at the Centennial Park tennis courts.

"I didn't think we'd be so strong to start off," he said.

"It's really impressive how everyone's improved so much.

"It's great to start off with a really decent team and we have all season to improve.

It'd be great if we could get both of those, and we really should if we keep working like we are right now.

"There's not reason for us to lose those.

If we came away with the wins it will boost our confidence even more."

The Bulldogs travel to Deer Valley and Peoria March 3 before returning March 7 to play Lake Havasu City.

They don't play at home again until March 17 when the Bulldogs host Peoria and Deer Valley.

The Bulldogs close the season at home against Mountain Ridge, April 7.

The regional tournament begins the following week.