Clockwise, beginning in the upper left: Garrett Carpenter, Gavin Collyott, Cooper Davis, and Austin Hardcastle are four returning contributors who will be asked to step up this season.

Season Preview: Off-Season Improvement to Fuel Tiger Tennis

Republic tennis coach David Smashey has high expectations for his team this season. With a mix of experienced seniors and talented underclassmen, Smashey believes the Tigers have the potential to be a special group.

“Coach (Jason) Romero and I just talk about what a remarkable group of humans this is,” Smashey said. “These are smart kids and good people, and the culture of the team is really healthy. Kids of different ages, kids of different experience, kids of different levels, a high level of respect and competition among everyone, so it’s a fun group to come and work with every day.”

Leading the way for Republic is junior Gavin Collyott. He played No. 4 singles last year but has made significant strides in his game. Collyott dedicated himself to improving in the offseason, according to Smashey.

“He played a lot over the off-season, practiced a lot, took lessons, competed a lot, played a lot of tournaments, and he’s a different player,” Smashey said. “He’s a good ball striker and a clever kid. He figures out how to win, and it’s just really fun to watch him. His quality is influencing our entire team. We haven’t had a player that influential, I think, in a long time.”

Smashey said Collyott’s work ethic and skill set have made him a team leader.

“I think the guys know how he’s gotten good, that he’s been a gym rat and that he’s worked at it,” Smashey said. “He’s talented. He has good hands, but he’s not a giant kid. He’s a normal-looking athlete playing remarkable tennis, and he feels like someone they can emulate, I think. They could also do the same thing.”

The Tigers also return four seniors who played varsity last season. That includes Garrett Carpenter, who has been in the varsity lineup since his freshman year.

“Garrett’s a fine athlete, and he looks like a senior,” Smashey said. “He’s strong, and he’s quick, and he can go get the ball. He’s going to be in the middle of whatever we do.”

Cooper Davis played mostly at No. 6 singles last year but has made significant strides in his game.

“So many of our guys are just bigger, stronger, and look physically different than a year ago. Cooper’s one of those. Cooper is really long, and he’s really fit, and he’s really fast. When you’re those things, it’s hard to find a place to put the ball that wins the point. He can keep you in the point almost all the time.”

Austin Hardcastle is another key senior. He worked his way into the varsity lineup by the end of last season and is known for his pinpoint accuracy.

“He’s a remarkable ball striker. He has this amazing ability to hit the ball where he aims it, which sounds simple, but most people can’t do it. He’s unbelievably accurate, and when he’s on, he just frustrates people. It’s fun to watch him do that to other teams, and there’s a lot of head shaking when they’re playing Austin.”

Cooper Choate also returns after playing mostly doubles last season. Smashey said Choate has grown about three inches and added significant power to his game, especially on his serve.

“Cooper can make the ball move, and of course, it has to land in the court, but increasingly he’s able to do that, and so he’s going to be a real factor for us,” Smashey said. “We need some players who can finish points, and Cooper can finish points.”

In addition to the experienced veterans, Republic also has a talented group of freshmen. Smashey said the young players are already pushing the older ones in practice.

“Good freshmen who are good athletes, and they’re fun to have around,” Smashey said. “They’re competitive. They’re not afraid. We do drills, and they stick their noses in there with our best players, and I think it bodes well for our future. Those kids are going to go from being good athletes playing tennis to being tennis players in not that long.”

Smashey said the key to the team’s success will be doubles play and winning close matches.

“We’re going to be a lot better in six weeks than we are now,” Smashey said. “Our doubles will be better and has to be better. We’re not going to be a powerhouse team that just runs people up. We’re going to have to win doubles matches, and we’re going to have to win a lot of close dual matches.”


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