A doubles partner at the Class 6A state boys tennis meet last spring, Lawrence High sophomore Scott Elwell will fly solo this year.
Elwell, who teamed with senior standout Mike Connolly last May to place fifth in doubles at state, is the Lions' clear-cut No. 1 singles player this season. LHS will open April 2 with a quadrangular at Topeka Seaman.
"I've hit with him a couple of times over the winter and have seen him take lessons," said LHS coach Dick Wedel, entering his 22nd season with the Lions. "He's grown. He's hitting the ball well. His serve seems to be more consistent. He's hitting it hard and it's going in."
Elwell proved his singles savvy in his first varsity meet late last season. As a freshman from South Junior High, he won the No. 2 singles division at the Sunflower League tournament.
After Elwell, Wedel was undecided on a lineup. Court time has been limited since practice began four weeks ago because of inclement weather and spring break.
"It's been real frustrating because I haven't seen them on the court hardly at all," Wedel said. "We had a couple of round-robins to get an idea on our ladder."
Senior Mattijs Van de Liefvoort and juniors Jon Weygint, Jeff Cravens, Brian Dobski and Bryan Allen figure to be in the mix.
"They played quite a bit of junior varsity last year," Wedel said.
The Lions have 24 players on their roster eight seniors, 10 juniors and six sophomores.
"Several others said they were interested, but they came out one time and I haven't seen them since," Wedel said.
Among the senior players are newcomers Dave Kusiak, Brandon Massey and Sean Patton. Kusiak and Massey played football last fall. Patton was a wrestling standout for the Lions in the winter.
"I've been impressed with them," Wedel said of the new blood. "I've tried to take them aside early on and give them private lessons. They picked it up fast. They still don't know how to play tennis, but they're learning how to hit the ball."
Wedel hopes those three and the other players will be hooked on tennis for a lifetime.
"In 30 years if these guys are still playing tennis I think we will have succeeded," Wedel said. "It'd be wonderful to know that's going on. They're not going to be playing football or wrestling in 30 years, but they could be playing tennis and having a great time."
LHS has four home events scheduled, including a dual with Free State on April 9.
The Class 6A regional for LHS and Free State has a new look. Leavenworth, Shawnee Mission East, SM North, SM Northwest, SM West and Topeka will join the two Lawrence schools on May 14 at Indian Creek Racquet Club in Overland Park.
State is in Wichita on May 18-19.