It has been a few seasons since a boys tennis player from Janesville has reached the WIAA state tournament.
Janesville Craig’s Adam Masters and Jimmy Flynn played in the Division 1 doubles tournament in 2015.
Craig and Parker hope they have the depth and talent to vie for a coveted spot at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison during the final weekend in May.
Weather permitting, the teams will begin their seasons this week.
Parker will lean on depth
Janesville Parker head coach Mike Fuhrmann said his team is as deep as it has been in recent memory.
His top six or seven players, he said, all enter the season with similar abilities. That means they will likely push each other for spots in the lineup, and it also should give Fuhrmann options from match to match as he is setting his lineup.
We’re going to experiment and have a lot of guys playing a little bit of both singles and doubles,” Fuhrmann said. “We’re trying to get our guys to be well-rounded tennis players, so they have the skills for both. And then depending on who we play, we can use different lineups.
“It’s a little bit different than we’ve done in the past.”
Parker returns eight players with varsity experience.
Junior Parker Schneider and sophomore Cayden Erickson played at No. 2 doubles last season, and Fuhrmann said they will be lead candidates for the singles and doubles spots.
“Parker is one of our best all-around players. He started playing tennis last year but really improved throughout the season,” Fuhrmann said. “Cayden is our power player. He’s got a huge serve and has really learned how to control his forehand and backhand.”
Senior Abel Saaka is another returner and a senior captain.
“He can get to pretty much any ball and hit it well on the run,” Fuhrmann said. “He’s able to set his feet and hit it better than most.”
Omar Puebla, Andrew Cunningham, Spencer Craker and Jake Turner are all returning varsity players. And Garrhett Bullen is back for Parker after not playing last year, and the Vikings have several juniors and sophomores vying for lineup spots.
“We only lost two guys off varsity from last year,” Fuhrmann said. “The kids are excited to get out there and play. We’ve been playing matches on Fridays just to get some perspective and get them thinking about full points.
“We are scheduled to open with Verona on Thursday. They’ve got a deep team coming back, so that would be a good test for us right off the bat to see where we stand.”
Craig’s top singles, doubles should contend
Janesville Craig head coach Bill Peyer likes the chances of his top singles player and doubles pair to reach sectionals and contend for a trip to state.
In doubles, the Cougars will be led by seniors Ben Pierson and Avery Hanel. Pierson and Hanel played mostly singles last season but have played doubles together previously.
“They’re back playing together and have a good shot,” Peyer said.
A newcomer is slated to take over the top singles spot. Joao Ferreira joins the lineup from Brazil.
“He’s played a lot back home, but on clay courts,” Peyer said. “So he’s adjusting to hard courts but says he likes it. It will probably take a few matches to adjust.
“But he’s got a good stroke and a strong mental game, so he should do fairly well and give some of the Madison players a match.”
Sawyer Sullivan moves up two spots to play at No. 2 singles.
Junior Rodrigo Villanueva and freshman Jacob Kranz round out the singles lineup, Peyer said, while juniors Mitch Heinzen and Zach Denzer and junior Joe Olsen and senior Gavin Ziebell round out the doubles.
“We finished seventh in the conference last year, and I think we can move up at least one spot in the standings,” Peyer said. “We should do fairly well at the top spots. For the guys who have moved up, a two-spot jump is a challenge.”
Badger leads area charge
Just four players from The Gazette’s coverage area who played at state last year were non-seniors, and three of them hail from Lake Geneva Badger.
Senior Mason Sniatynski won a pair of singles matches at state last year, while junior Jordan Lauer was a singles qualifier. Sr. Wyatt VanDyke qualified in doubles but had a senior partner.
In Division 2, Big Foot/Williams Bay senior Christian Karabas qualified as part of a doubles team.