After winning 40 conference championships in the school’s 53 seasons of boys’ tennis, the 2020 team looks to add to its collection of titles.
Union Pines took a step in that direction Monday, traveling to Angier to pick up a 9-0 Tri-County 6 Conference win over Harnett Central.
The Vikes will play numerous improved teams this season, with matches at Overhills and Jordan-Matthews, in addition to what should be a competitive conference schedule.
This year’s edition of Viking tennis will be without Blake Deaton. The four-time all-conference performer with more than 100 career victories was a conference doubles champion and a four-time regional qualifier.
Senior Shawn Rutkofske 95-3 and three times all-conference returns to lead this year’s squad that is not without players with impressive resumes. Rutkofske teamed with Deaton to win the conference doubles title and reached the regional quarters last year.
Classmates Gavin and Kai Blakely, 2019 conference doubles runners-up and regional qualifiers will likewise provide leadership. Proven players and all-conference performers they are expected to play key roles for a team with several experienced players. Kai finished third in the 2018 conference singles championship.
Carter Leonard, another senior, returns with added experience and is looking to compete for playing time.
Juniors Davis and Jake Moubry are much improved and are expected to have much to say about how far the team progresses. Jake as a freshman was conference singles runner-up and regional qualifier, and two-times all-conference. He has collected 53 wins. Davis is a steady competitor with a 17-3 match record and gives the team depth and dependable performances.
Sophomores Luke O’Donnell and Caleb Downing, coming off impressive freshmen seasons look to strengthen the lineup. O’Donnell with 19 wins was an all-conference performer, and Downing who is steadily improving was 12-1.
Freshmen Jackson Carmichael and John Perry are inexperienced, but showing rapid improvement and are welcome additions to the squad.
“Doubles play will be a key for this year’s team,” said Viking head coach John Frye. “The squad has had little time to develop duos and team chemistry, but we’ve improved taking the ball out of the air and expect strong play from several pairs. We look forward to the challenges of competing for team and individual honors.”