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Young Alpena boys tennis team has lots of room for growth

Courtesy Photo The 2020 Alpena High boys tennis team includes: back row: Evan Goff, Dan Cox, Harrison Butch, Logan Denbleyker and Nick Lusardi; front row: Alec Degen, Avery Mcconnell, Connor Caplis and William Schultz. Missing is Will Bushey.

The Alpena boys tennis team is going back to school this season. 

With a mix of 11 players that includes five sophomores, four freshmen and four players who are brand new to tennis, Charlie Giordano has plenty of teaching to do. 

But that’s just how the longtime Alpena coach likes it, since it means he can help encourage young players’ love for the sport. 

“(I’m expecting) lots of growth. I lost five of my seniors from last year and that was the top of my lineup,” Giordano said. “(It’s) very exciting to be able to give the game to people like I’ve done in the past. It was really nice over the past four or five years to have lots of kids that knew how to play and then you could work on the finer points of the game. But it is very exciting to be the first person or second person that’s talking to them about tennis and give them (the knowledge of) that sport.” 

Alpena’s lone senior is Harrison Butch, who will be tasked with leading Alpena’s lineup as the No.  1 singles player. Being a team leader is a different role for Butch, but it’s one that Giordano is confident he can handle. 

“(I expect) lots of leadership and leading by example. I did have a chat with him the other day because I told him this is a strange year for him,” Giordano said. 

Giordano said junior Dan Cox will likely play at No. 2 singles, but the rest of the lineup is a work in progress with so many younger players. Having so much youth means Giordano could conceivably have nine players together for the next three years, but he’s still trying to figure out where everyone else fits in the lineup.

This year’s Alpena squad also includes Evan Goff, Logan Denbleyker, Nick Lusardi, Alec Degen, Avery Mcconnell, Connor Caplis, William Schultz and Will Bushey.

Traditionally, the youngest or newest players, start at No. 4 doubles and work their way up, but that can prove challenging against teams with more experienced lineups.

Giordano said Denbleyker and Lusardi may be in the mix to team up at No. 1 doubles.

At a time when COVID-19 has restricted and reshaped the way athletes compete, the Wildcats have by and large been lucky so far.  

For the first few weeks of the season, players didn’t have to wear masks on the courts, but practiced social distancing guidelines when switching sides during matches and frequently sanitized their hands. Each player also has their own balls to practice with and players who aren’t on the court must wear masks.

That has change however as a new executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, mandates that all athletes have to wear a mask during all workouts, competitions and practices, effective Sept. 8.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is currently seeking clarification on this point, as its Return to Play guidelines, which were last updated on Friday, stated facial coverings must be worn by everyone at all times.

“Fortunately for us, it looks relatively the same. There’s not a lot of contact,” Giordano said. “We’re an outside sport and there’s not a lot of close contact.”

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