Getting the Lawrence High tennis team to want to practice isn't a problem for coach DIck Wedel. Finding suitable weather is.
"When we do have good weather, I have to send them home," Wedel said. "They're out there hitting the ball and hitting the ball. I have to go home and eat dinner. They are definitely interested in improving."
They are also young and numerous. The roster lists 31 players -- seven seniors, 14 juniors and 10 sophomores. LHS will open Tuesday at Manhattan.
"We're kind of a young team," Wedel said. "The seniors on our team are in a difficult situation, because it looks like the strength of our team is in the sophomore and junior classes. That's good for me because I'll have them a little longer."
Naturally, Wedel wished he had Albin Polonyi longer. Polonyi, who won the state singles title last year, is now a freshman at Georgia. He played at LHS just one year, helping the Lions to the Sunflower League and regional championships and a third-place finish at state.
"WE MISS Albin Polonyi a lot," Wedel said. "I've gotten a couple of letters and newspaper stories. He's playing varsity in each meet."
His graduation left a gaping hole at the No. 1 singles spot. Leading contenders to fill the void, Wedel said, are junior Anthony Gasper and sophomore Tyler Epp.
"Those are the leading candidates," Wedel said. "But I don't have a ladder. I usually don't develop one except in general terms. I still have time to decide. I'm hoping we can go (today) so we can get some idea, but it's not crucial yet. We'll try some different combinations."
Wedel should have plenty to choose from. For the second straight year, more than 30 players are on the team.
"It's hard to get practice for them all," Wedel said. "We'll break them down into two groups and have two practices a night. It is some extra work, but that's OK. I enjoy tennis."
WEDEL COULD cut some players, but that's a move he would rather not consider.
"I encourage people to play tennis," he said. "One way to keep them playing tennis is to keep everybody on the team. It has always been my idea, if they're willing to come to practice and work, I'm willing to work with them. Plus, we're overscheduled. We have more matches than anyone can play. We'll work them in."
The newcomers, Wedel said, have already proven their strength in practice.
"They're all competing well amongst each other in practice," he said. "Each one wants to move up. We have some good young players. Having sophomores playing at the varsity level is always an adventure. But I've been real pleased with the attitude of all the players."
The Lions will open at home on April 13, playing host to Olathe South and Kansas City Washington.