Pack-ed with potentialPublished 5:38pm Friday, March 8, 2013
With returning players like Connor Wilkins and Luke Harris, the potential is there for the Pam Pack tennis team to have a strong season, and if first-year coach Miranda Whitley can find the right combination for the remainder of her lineup she believes Washington could become the cream of the crop in the Coastal Conference.
“I’ve told them that I really think we can be undefeated this year,” said Whitley, a Washington graduate who played tennis for the Pam Pack. “I know South Central is a really strong team but I honestly believe we can beat them if we put our minds to it and work hard.”
Whitley is filling the shoes of popular former coach Daniel Manzer who accepted a teaching position in Raleigh, and said she has enjoyed working with the Washington netters.
“They’re good kids and good tennis players,” Whitley said. “They listen and so far it’s been pretty good.”
Washington heads into the season with a top-heavy lineup highlighted by the 6-1 sophomore Wilkins, who was named the Coastal Conference Player of the Year last season as a freshman. Trailing Wilkins is returning No. 2 seed senior Luke Harris, while freshman Holt McKeithan has worked his way up to the No. 3 seed.
It’s a 1-3 that Whitley feels comfortable with for now.
“We have a really strong top-three with Connor, Luke and Holt,” Whitley said. “Connor practices all the time and puts everything in it. He hits the ball well and always finishes his shot. He’s just a strong all-around player.
“… Luke Harris is a good player and him and Connor make a great doubles team. They played together last year so they know each other’s style.
“… (Holt) has been playing for years now. I help out at the Washington Racquet Club in the summer and he’s been playing there pretty much every year. He’s another one who plays a lot, and playing a lot really helps him.”
With three players from last year’s team deciding not to return, Whitley is still in the process of finalizing her final three singles seeds. So far she likes senior John Tate at the four spot, while freshmen Eric Crozier and Weston Brown, along with seniors Corson Buckman and Luke Ainsworth are battling for the remaining two seeds.
“I think John Tate is going to stay at No. 4,” Whitley said. “At five and six we have Eric, Corson and Luke, but (freshman) Weston Brown could potentially take one of those spots. Those four are really kind of interchangeable.”
In doubles play, Wilkins and Harris, who went 10-3 last season in their first year playing together, will be back once again and form one of the most powerful tandems in the conference.
Beyond that, Whitley is still examining potential pairings and for now has partnered Tate with Buckman and McKeithan with Ainsworth.
“I think they all work well together, but it’s just going to take some practice time,” Whitley said. “They’re not used to playing with each other like Luke and Connor are so they have to get used to each other’s playing styles.”