Pictured is the 2010 Jay County High School boys tennis team. Front row from left are Darren DeRome, Brook Fraley, Melinda Penrod, MacKenzie Overholser, Leeza Sell, Mariah Boles and Josh Lykins. Middle row are Kody Degler, Jacob Schwieterman, Colby Cline, Joseph Imel, Chance Fuller, Brad Leuthold, Blake Baughman and Matt Schrack. Back row are Nicholas Leuthold, Preston Overholser, Morton Garringer, Tony Schwieterman, Drew Wood, Jordan McBride Dylan Franks, Evan Mathias and Derek Smith.
Pictured is the 2010 Jay County High School boys tennis team. Front row from left are Darren DeRome, Brook Fraley, Melinda Penrod, MacKenzie Overholser, Leeza Sell, Mariah Boles and Josh Lykins. Middle row are Kody Degler, Jacob Schwieterman, Colby Cline, Joseph Imel, Chance Fuller, Brad Leuthold, Blake Baughman and Matt Schrack. Back row are Nicholas Leuthold, Preston Overholser, Morton Garringer, Tony Schwieterman, Drew Wood, Jordan McBride Dylan Franks, Evan Mathias and Derek Smith.
To say 2009 was a struggle for the Jay County High School boys tennis team is an understatement.
The Patriots, who won three straight sectional titles from 2005 through ’07, failed to win even three matches.
After defeating Muncie Southside on Sept. 1, they dropped their final 12 matches. Those defeats came by a combined score of 54-6, including 5-0 to Marion in the sectional tournament, with only one close call in a 3-2 loss to South Adams.
Obviously Jay County would like to put those numbers behind them and get back to winning form this year, and they’ll look to new No. 1 singles player Brad Leuthold to lead the way.
The junior played in the No. 2 spot a year ago, and as the lone returning player with significant varsity singles experience he is the clear choice to move up.
“Experience is the main thing,” said JCHS coach Barry Weaver. “He works hard at it. He put in the time over the summer. He played quite a bit. His strokes are solid. He’s getting better at the service (part of the game).”
His main challenge now will be taking on the top players in the area, a chore handled by then-senior Jared Valentine last season.
“When you step up to No. 1, it’s just culture shock. You’re going against the best from every team every match you go out there.”
Derek Smith and Joe Imel both saw limited action at varsity singles last season, and will be in contention for full-time spots this year. Smith, a sophomore, is slated to start the year in the No. 2 position.
 “Derek has a real, real strong forehand right now,” said Weaver. “His backhand is a little suspect. … And his serve has really come along. He played quite a bit this summer as well.”
Imel will be in a battle with several other players, including junior Tony Schwieterman and first-year senior Drew Wood, for time at No. 3 singles.
In addition to Leuthold, the Patriots will also need leadership from the No. 1 doubles pair of Chance Fuller and Jordan McBride. They moved up to the No. 1 doubles spot during the 2009 campaign and played the closest match for JCHS in the sectional loss to Marion.
“They may be the most athletic kids we’ve got on the team,” said Weaver. “The serve right now is the place where we’ve got to improve the most. … They do a nice job of covering the court.”
In addition to the hopes of having a rebound season, Weaver also said he is excited to have eight freshman players to help build for the future. But for this season, he’ll be leaning heavily on his juniors in order to climb back and give Marion a run for the sectional title.
‘After being (2-15) last year, we’re really looking to get back above .500,” Weaver said. “We lost some matches to some schools last year that we haven’t lost to in quite some time.”