Having gotten a big taste of the Niagara Frontier League boys tennis pie last season, the Lockport Lions are hungry for more.
Veteran head coach Dave Shambach (1985-present) returns a solid nucleus of experienced players this spring, as well as some fresh up-and-coming talent.
The Lions open their 2012 NFL slate at 4 p.m. today at Niagara-Wheatfield.
Shambach (264-102 career) said among the key players lost to graduation include Zach Finney, the team's first singles player, a Third Team NFL all-star a year ago, as well as sectionals representative Miles Schimert and co-captain Lennart Bleckemann, a foreign exchange student.
Among the players to look out for in 2012 are first singles player Connor Dry (third singles a year ago), along with fellow senior co-captains Brendan Williams and Brian Smist.
Dry is a great all-around LHS athlete and should be a test for any of the other school's top players this year. Williams and Smist, last year's unbeaten first doubles combination for the blue and gold, will be the second and third singles starters this season for the Lions.
Other returning starters include talented sophomores Bailey Reid, part of last year's top NFL unbeaten doubles team, along with J.J. Napoli, who earned his first varsity letter in 2011.
“We have a group of seniors who have been with me for at least four years, many of whom have varsity experience, not necessarily at their position,” Shambach said.
New position players and new players vying for second doubles positions will be senior Taylor Sukdolak, juniors Sean Kearns and Joel Schlitzler; along with sophomores Jeremy Cogovan, Luke Sciandra and Brett Bynes; freshman Evan Williams and seventh grader Nick Guay.
Shambach said Schlitzer, Sciandra, Bynes, Williams and Guay are all first year players with at least some past tennis experience.
Shambach said among the teams to watch out for this season are North Tonawanda, Lockport, Grand Island and Niagara-Wheatfield.
“NT should be very strong with both John and Adrew Lemar, last years two top NFL singles players, returning,” Shambach said.
“Lockport should be in the mix."
Following today's match in Sanborn, the net Lions will prepare for Thurday's 4 p.m. home opener against North Tonawanda. Other LHS home tennis matches are Monday (Niagara Falls), April 26 (Kenmore West), April 30 (Niagara-Wheatfield), May 4 (Kenmore East), May 9 (Lewiston-Porter) and May 15 (Grand Island), all 4 p.m. starts.
LHS Boys Tennis Roster
Connor Dry 12
Brian Smist 12
Taylor Sukdolak 12
Brendan Williams 12
Joel Schlitzer 11
Sean Kearns 11
Brett Bynes 10
Jeremy Cogovan 10
J.J. Napoli 10
Bailey Reid 10
Luke Sciandra 10
Evan Williams 9
Nick Guay 7
(All matches are 4 p.m. starts)
Tod. @ Niagara Wheatfield
Thu. NORTH TONAWANDA
Fri. @ Kenmore East
Mon. NIAGARA FALLS
4/24 @ Lewiston-Porter
4/26 KENMORE WEST
4/28 @ Grand Island
5/2 @ North Tonawanda
5/4 KENMORE EAST
5/7 @ Niagara Falls
5/11 @ Kenmore West
5/15 GRAND ISLAND