IR boys’ and girls’ tennis teams seal division, prepare for conferences
This past week, wins on the tennis court for both Indian River’s boys’ and girls’ varsity teams earned them locks on the Southern Henlopen Division titles. The boys fell just short last year, losing the crown to Seaford, while the girls continued their streak, mounting their third consecutive Henlopen South Division championship.
“We were able to go 6-0 in the South this year,” observed first-year girls’ varsity tennis head coach Conor McMullen. “That’s pretty solid. They had won the division over the last two years, and I knew this was a big goal for them. At the beginning of the season, we had four vacant spots that needed to be filled, and just three returners. The girls have steadily improved as the year has gone on, though, and I’ve very proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
This year, the girls dropped matches only to St. Thomas More, Caesar Rodney and Smyrna, falling 4-1 in each. They were scheduled to face out-of-conference foe Appoquinimink on Thursday, May 10, (after Coastal Point press deadline).
“The competition has gotten tougher throughout the year,” McMullen noted, “but the fact that our girls won as handedly the second time around as they did the first shows that they’re getting tougher, too.”
As for the guys and their head coach, Paris Mitchell Jr., winning the division title was bittersweet.
“This really meant a lot to the boys,” said Mitchell. “They just missed it last year, and I give a lot of credit to Seaford. They came out, played well and were pretty evenly matched up. But we fought through it and won some tough matches. I think it will be good for us to have that strong match-up [with Seaford] at the end of the season to keep us sharp.”
The Indian River boys were able to sweep the Blue Jays this year and only lost to Caesar Rodney during the regular season. (The boys’ team, too, had yet to play Appoquinimink as of Coastal Point press time this week, with their match set for Thursday, May 10.)
With the Henlopen Conference Tournament scheduled this Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, at Sea Colony’s tennis club in Bethany Beach, the teams were eyeing their potential matchups – and shooting for a conference title.
“The conference tournament is something these guys get up for. They’ve been talking about it since Day 1. We’ve only ever had one conference championship team – a doubles team – come home with the Henlopen Conference title. This year, I think we have a chance for several championships.”
The girls, too, stand a chance to make deep runs in the Henlopen Conference tournament.
“Caesar Rodney is probably going to have most of the top seeds,” noted McMullen, “but I think our entire team is within the top four spots. Those higher seeds can help you get deep into the tournament.”
Mitchell credited the team’s success this year with the way they’ve carried themselves in school and additional sports, too.
“These guys really draw on their experience from other sports,” he said. “All of them play on successful teams, and that’s what these kids bring each year to the tennis court. In the past, there were times that if one of the guys lost their first set, the second one wouldn’t even be close, and they’d fall apart. This season, you can tell that these guys are out there to win. They bring it every time.
“That’s not something you can teach or coach. That’s something that these guys have. They all have that will to win.”
As with the IRHS girls, Mitchell expects the defending state champions of Caesar Rodney – who accumulated an undefeated record this season – to hold most of the No. 1 seeds in the Henlopen Conference tournament, but he expects his team to compete and hopes to have multiple players advance to the final match and maybe come home with a trophy.
The Henlopen Conference Championship will take place at the Sea Colony Tennis Club in Bethany Beach on Friday, May 11, starting at 12:30 p.m., and will continue on Saturday, May 12, beginning at 10 a.m.