SIKESTON - The Sikeston tennis team will open its season tomorrow at the Farmington Tournament.
The two-time defending district champion Bulldogs will be looking to get off to a good start this season after losing its top two players from last year in Stephen Pobst and Adam Hahs.
"We lost Pobst and Adam Hahs and those are two guys that were basically No. 1 and 2 for four years," said Sikeston head coach Brian James. "You could just about count on a win out of them in singles and they would usually win their doubles match. We're going to have to find replacements for three automatic wins. Guys are just going to have to step up. That's how you've got to do it in every sport."
The top returning players from last year's 11-1 squad will be the returning doubles team of Ryne Vickery and Peter Jones, who have been state qualifiers the last two years.
Vickery and Jones will also serve as the No. 1 and No. 2 players on the team.
Sophomore Marc Leible and junior Chris Robey, who reached the quarterfinals in district play as a doubles team last year, return as the No. 3 and No. 4 players this year.
"We return four guys that were varsity guys last year," said James. "They all had a good year a got a lot of experience. We're counting very heavily on those four. We've had a good run the last couple years. Fortunately we still have some guys left from those teams to hopefully contribute this year."
James said the top four is pretty solid, but the next two positions are up for grabs.
Kyle Weeks and sophomore Matt Strom fill out the fifth and sixth positions heading into this weekend. But James says anything can happen over the course of the season.
Waiting in the wings to take over a varsity spot are Kyle Howard, Logan Waggoner, Ryan Dukes, Cody Weeks and Carl Erlenbush.
"That's our top six going into this weekend, but that's subject to change because we've got about six or seven guys that are fairly equal in that 5-through-12 spot," said James. "It's been some great competition in practice. I look for people to try to step up their game and take one of those spots."
James also said that several freshmen could make a push if they continue to improve.
With six freshmen, the Bulldogs have some options. Chris Matthews, Andrew Powell, Grant Ingram, Ryan Beard, Craig Middleton and Garrett May will all push for spots.
"I'm looking for good things out of them," said James. "They've got some good potential. I'm very pleased to see them out for the team this year."
Although the Bulldogs have some holes to fill, James says the goals haven't changed.
"Our goal is to win the district championship and send as many people onto state play as we can," he said.