Head coach Robert Whyte returns just three players with varsity experience this spring, but he’ll have around 20 other players to fill out his starting lineup for the boys tennis team.

Head coach Robert Whyte returns just three players with varsity experience this spring, but he’ll have around 20 other players to fill out his starting lineup for the boys tennis team.

José Casteñeda, Elijah Paden and Tommy Neuenswander return from last year’s starting six.

“Tommy moved back and forth between number one and number three for us,” Whyte said last week. “This is his fourth year playing at varsity. We’re looking for him to have a good year this year. José improved quite a bit last year and moved into the varsity and won some matches for us. He’s worked hard this summer and I’m looking forward to him having a good year, too. Elijah played five and six for us last year and I’m thinking he’ll be able to move up and do a job for us.”

The trio helped the Tigers take a step forward last year, winning three matches after going winless the previous two seasons. Carthage defeated Nevada, Monett and Webb City, winning the first two on the road.

Barely two weeks into practicing, Whyte and assistant Mark Lingenfelter are currently finding out how much depth they’ll have this year. A few relative newcomers have already stood out.

“We’ve got a few additions like Seth Dixon, he was a strong junior varsity player for us last year,” Whyte said. “We’re looking forward to him coming up and doing some good things. He’s played a lot over the summer. A new addition to our team is Adam Theis. He came over from golf and he’s been a pleasant surprise. I like his strokes and I think with experience he could be a good player for us.”

This spring will mark the final season Carthage High School will play on the tennis courts on River Street by K.E. Baker Stadium. After more than 40 years of use, the district plans to construct new courts by the high school.

Whyte said he was nostalgic about playing one final season on River Street.

“I’m looking forward to having a new facility and definitely an upgrade but it’s home,” he said. “It’s one of those things that’s going to be probably a little strange at first.

“I’m going to miss having other coaches say, ‘Hey, do you have any other courts we can play on?’” he said.
The four courts were resurfaced a few years ago, but it didn’t take long for underlying cracks to reappear at the surface.

The new courts are being made possible thanks to a $500,000 donation to the district from the Kent D. and Mary L. Steadley Memorial Trust. Whether the district builds six or eight courts remains to be seen.

“It depends on how the bids come on,” Whyte said. “Our big thing we’re preaching is get them done right because we’ve seen so many new courts built around the area and they’ve gone on the cheap and they don’t last a year before they’re cracking. The administration has been very open to hearing, they want a quality thing. Depending on the price it could be six to eight courts.”

The project is slated to be completed by Aug. 1 in time for the fall girls season.

The coaches hope to host tournaments once the new courts are finished.

“We’d like to have a tournament or host something like a district,” Whyte said. “If they go with the small number and we only have six I still think you can host a district tournament with six courts. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to host some tournaments.”

Carthage opens the season at home against Republic on Mar. 26. The Tigers host Thomas Jefferson on April 2, Nevada on April 5, Joplin on April 9, Monett on April 7, Ozark on April 24 and Neosho on April 30.
Carthage plays in tournaments at Thomas Jefferson (April 20), Monett (April 25) and Republic (April 27).