Coach: Boys' tennis team expected to play better

With four seniors and two sophomores on the roster, Kingman High School's boys' tennis team will need to blend its youth and experience in order to improve on last year's third place finish in the Northwest Region.

"It's still too early to tell," coach Darrin Peppard said "But I think this will probably be a better team (than last year's).

The kids worked hard in the offseason and some of them improved a great deal."

Seniors Mike Essig and Craig Owen will be battling it out for the No.

1 spot all season.

A slight edge goes to Essig, but the order may change depending on the opponent.

"If Mike puts his game together, there's no doubt in my mind he can be No.

1 in the region," Peppard said.

"He just needs to make a few improvements."

Sophomore Adam McGerty will take the No.

3 slot, while seniors Lee Erickson and Ryan Henderson and sophomore Ian MacGregor will likely take the 4, 5 and 6 spots, respectively.

The doubles teams are not set yet, but with the first two matches of the season against Lake Havasu, Peppard will have a chance to move players around.

The No.

1 doubles team will likely be Owen and McGerty.

"They've never played together before," Peppard said, "But I kind of have a feeling about them.

Owen and Essig have played together as a team since they were freshman and I think they may have played out their potential as a team."

Once again, Mountain Ridge should be tops in the region.

The Mountain Lions didn't lose anyone from last year's first-place squad and have a couple of top prospects.

However, Peppard is hoping his team will challenge Ironwood for second in the region.

"This is my fourth year coaching and two of those years we finished in third, behind Ironwood," Peppard said.

"It's always close and we've closed the gap each year.

Hopefully, this will be the year we can get to No.

2."

Peppard is optimistic about this season, but knows there are still questions to be answered.

"A lot will depend on our middle order," Peppard said.

"We need to improve at doubles, but the infusion of sophomores should help.

It's tough to say, but I think we'll be a lot better."

The Bulldogs open the season Friday against Lake Havasu at Centennial Park at 3:30 p.m.