The Jefferson City Jays tennis team brings back almost its entire roster from last season and is excited about the potential this season could bring.
The Jays put in a lot of offseason work on their own and will get the first chance to show their improvement at 4:30 p.m. today at Mexico.
“I think the thing we are most excited about is a lot of those kids put in a lot work in the offseason to get better,” Jefferson City coach Henry Thompson said. “They are tired of playing each other in practice, they have been going three weeks now, so they are excited to get on the court and play against other schools.”
The top of the Jefferson City roster remains the same as last year, as senior Aarush Deshpande returns to the No. 1 singles spot and sophomore Arjun Garikapaty slots in behind at No. 2.
Desphande has really taken his leadership role seriously headed into his final season.
“He was really the leader of this offseason of getting the guys together to go hit, or go to clinics, lessons or tournaments,” Thompson said. “He has really high goals for himself and the team this year. … This year I know he really wants to go out with a bang and take this team to new heights.”
Garikapaty has high goals after narrowly missing the state singles tournament last season.
“I know that has given him some motivation to work hard and improve,” Thompson said. “He’s just a tough out. He’s a tough kid to beat. He’s got great skills, he’s a competitor and he will be really solid for us at No. 2.”
Sophomore Avnith Kumar will be making the move from the fourth spot to No. 3 this year as he has made noticeable progress from his freshman year.
“He’s really got a lot quicker this year, he put in a lot of time in our school’s strength and conditioning program,” Thompson said. “He’s very solid, rarely beats himself, added some power to his game.”
Senior Riley Cooper will slot into the No. 4 spot as another returner from the Top 6 last year.
The Jays thinks Cooper’s competitive nature is going to take him a long ways in his matches this season.
“One thing about Riley is he never quits, he always competes,” Thompson said. “… He works hard, he grinds out matches, he never gives up and that is really what you have to have at that spot.”
Blake Roettgen, a senior, will be at No. 5. Thompson sees him as the player that has improved the most from since last year.
“He’s worked on his tennis game, his fitness, his endurance and he’s been the biggest and most pleasant surprise at practice so far,” Thompson said. “Just how he’s transformed himself into a complete tennis player this year has been awesome to see. I hope it translates to real matches because he’s worked so hard to get to that level.”
Senior Sam Ramelb rounds out the singles lineup at No. 6. Consistency is the biggest asset for Ramelb.
“He’s one of the most focused kids I have when I send him out to play matches,” Thompson said. “He just goes there and does his job. I think at No. 6 one thing you have to have is consistency, and I think he has improved enough to be that consistent force for us at No. 6.”
Doubles pairings will be decided early in the season, as mixing and matching pairs early on is to be expected.
Others that could make an impact are sophomore Dhruv Divyakumar and junior David Murillo-Martinez as they round out the varsity roster.
The Jays know their roster has improved a lot during the offseason but are excited to see how that translates to match success this year.
“Yeah, their skills have improved, but can it translate to a real match situation where they can be successful?” Thomson said. “… I think this year we will have the most success of the last several seasons.”
A chance to fight for a district title is the big goal for Jefferson City this season.
“We are the longest running program here, boys tennis, to not win a district title,” Thompson said. “That’s always on the radar, of course. And if you can accomplish that at some point, there’s obviously loftier goals.”