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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Elwell Lions’ top returner

Firebirds boast ‘experienced group’

March 31, 2003

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When Lawrence High's boys tennis team opens its season in Tuesday's dual at Emporia, most of the attention will be on LHS senior Scott Elwell.

And most of the pressure. After all, he's the only proven player the Lions have.

"We need him to be great," LHS coach Dick Wedel said. "He's going to be the best we have."

Elwell, who has orally committed to the University of Iowa, placed fifth last season and finished 23-7 overall. If he places again this season, it would be his fourth straight medal.

"I think he's the only player we've ever had that went to state as a freshman and placed," Wedel said. "He and Mike Conway placed, and the next year I think he was third or fourth."

It's clear what Wedel has in Elwell, but the rest of the squad is a big question mark.

There aren't any standouts, mostly because Elwell is one of the few players who plays year-round. Seniors Jeff Craig and Galo Salcedo and junior James Garito are some of the Lions competing for varsity playing time.

But Wedel said despite his team's inexperience -- there are only seven seniors on the 24-man roster -- he likes the Lions' prospects.

"I'm enjoying the type of guys that we have. They just need a lot of experience and a lot of work," Wedel said. "But the good part is, it's really easy to work with them because the learning curve is so steep."

Still, when the end of the season arrives, Elwell will be the Lions' best prospect for a state medal.

"I think it's clear Scott's our No. 1 player," Wedel said. "We're shooting for him to do something in singles at the end of the year."

Free State

While LHS has one dominant player, that's about the only thing the Firebirds are missing.

Five seniors -- Alan Martinez, Ben Cropp, Eyad Safadi, Matt Schwabauer and Eric Sheu -- were the Firebirds' top players last year, when they finished third at the Sunflower League meet, their best placing in school history.

"It's an experienced group," FSHS coach Jon Renberger said. "We certainly have depth and better-than-average talent. We just don't have that national-caliber player that we've had on the girls' side the last few years."

Those girls, which include state champs in senior Emily Wang and 2001 graduate Laura Gravino, propelled the Firebirds to three top-three finishes at state in the last four years.

None of the five boys has qualified for state, but Renberger hopes this is their breakthrough year. It has been three years since the Firebirds have had anyone qualify.

"We've come real close," Renberger said. "As seniors, they realize it's the year that you have to finally lay it all on the line."

It starts Tuesday at home against Shawnee Mission South.

Renberger said juniors Bryan Maygers, Mark Wittemore, Jason Kroge and Evan Schulte all are competing for the sixth spot, while sophomore Nathan Schriner and senior John Benjamin are close behind.

"These guys are all solid," Renberger said. "This is the year I hope they get over the hump."

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