It’s been another pre-season scramble out on the Friday Harbor tennis courts.
Another scramble for bodies, that is.
“Here’s one of the oldest athletic programs at the school and it’s dying,” said Head Coach Dick Barnes, who, just like a year ago, has been turning over every stone to field a team for what he hopes will be his 26th consecutive year at the helm. “If it does, who knows what’ll take to get it back.”
A year ago, Barnes, along with a pair of veteran players, pieced together a patchwork lineup of eight players by combing the halls of the high school for new recruits, enlisting newcomers from Spring Street International School, and by dipping into the middle school to entice an eighth grader to petition the governing body of the state’s high school sports so that he could compete at the high school ranks, which it did.
This year, the recruiting effort has not gone as well, Barnes said.
Only five players turned out for the 2013 team. And after nearly two weeks of pre-season practice, the team still had only five.
A minimum of eight is needed just to fill all the slots of any given match, two for singles and six for three teams of doubles. Friday Harbor would chalk up a forfeit in the loss column for any singles or doubles matchup it couldn’t compete in for lack of players.
While football almost always draws heavy numbers — 50 players turned out for the 2013 team — Barnes points to the fall soccer club that started up several years ago for an erosion of interest in joining the boys tennis team. Although the club disbanded this year, Barnes said the damage has been done.
“It got kids out of the habit of playing tennis,” he said.
The Wolverines are slated to open the season at home, Sept. 13, against Coupeville. Should a couple more players turn out, they would need two weeks of practice under their belts before being eligible for competition. Barnes said the likelihood that the first couple of matches will be postponed is high, if the season happens at all.
“If I can’t collect a few more guys I don’t know what we’ll do,” he said.
For senior Sean Hills, the team’s top singles player, a batch of forfeits sounds better than no season at all. A year ago, he came up just shy of clinching a berth in the Division 1A regional tournament.
“I’m fine with taking the forfeits and for us to just keep playing,” he said.
Along with Hills, the early season roster includes first-year player Isaiah Billings, a senior, sophomore James Ronhaar, and Spring Street’s Bruce Yao and Tiger Xu. The addition of a couple more players could make all the difference for the season ahead.