Last season, the Patriots had a tremendous amount of success.
But, looking back, it is a little bit difficult for them to really enjoy all of their accomplishments.
“As well as it went, it was a bit of a letdown,” Model Laboratory coach Ric Hernandez said. “We were certainly expecting to play for the state title. But, that makes us hungrier. I think that’s where we are at now. (Our kids) have been chomping at the bit all winter long.”
After finishing the regular season with an undefeated record (14-0), the Model Laboratory tennis team won its first region title in five years.
Then, the Patriots advanced to the semifinals of the state team tournament.
They fell to Corbin — and that loss has really stuck with them for almost a year.
“We are hungry to make it back,” said Hernandez, last year’s 11th Region Coach of the Year.
Model lost three seniors from that team, including regional runner-up Woody Rini, but they have plenty of talent and depth returning and should be in position to once again make a run at a regional title.
Sophomore Gus Benson returns and the Patriots also have their top doubles team from last year back — senior Alex Brubaker and sophomore Jack Frisbie.
Benson advanced to the semifinals of the regional tournament last season before falling to the eventual champion, Zack Lewis. The sophomore went on to win two matches at the state tournament.
Benson did not lose a regular-season match last season (14-0).
“We are expecting big things from him,” Hernandez said of Benson. “He is going to be one of the top two players in the region this year. He improves every day. He plays a ton of junior tournaments and he plays up to get better competition.”
Brubaker and Frisbie were the No. 5 seed at the last year’s regional tournament.
They have bigger expectations this season.
“We’ve been playing together for three years,” Brubaker said. “So, this year we are probably looking to be (a higher) seed. We can maybe even be the No. 1 seed if we play really well.”
At this point, four players are battling for the No. 2 singles position — senior Eric Yoder, sophomore James Logue, freshman Nolan Kelly and sixth-grader Cole Wilson.
“It’s up in the air,” Hernandez said. “We have four players who are almost equal. We have a lot of flexibility.”
Yoder played No. 2 doubles with Thomas Loy last year. But, its unclear at this point who will emerge as Model’s top team behind Brubaker and Frisbie.
Logue, Yoder, Kelly and Wilson are also considered the top contenders to step into that role this year.
“Everything rides on our doubles play this year,” Hernandez said. “Gus is going to take care of business and we are going to get some wins at the No. 2 singles. But, if we want to repeat we need to get good results from our doubles teams.”
The Patriots will begin their quest for a repeat when they take on Bryan Station at 4 p.m. today at Arlington Country Club.