The Raiders have a new coach and return just one player from last year’s 10-7 team. Taking over the reins is Lady Raiders tennis coach Paula York, who is leading the men’s team for the first time.
York takes over for Caron Robich, who resigned after coaching the program the last two years. Monday was just York’s third day on the job, and has just two players on the roster with any tennis background.
“Most of these guys are basically football players, and they’re out here working on their agility and conditioning,” York said. “They’re a good group, and the biggest thing we’re trying to do is get them fundamentally sound. We’re going to correct some things as we go along. What we’re worrying about is getting the ball into play.”
Junior Andrew Wheeler has been on the squad since he was a freshman, and was Richmond’s No. 4 singles player last year and he posted a 10-5 record. York is looking for him to be the Raiders’ No. 2 player this season.
“I know with me playing at a higher seed, the competition is going to be more challenging,” Wheeler said. “Before the season, I was out here working on my serving. I feel like once I get my first serve in, then things will work out pretty good. My goal is to make a strong showing in the regional.”
York selected the youngest player on the squad to be Richmond’s No. 1 player. Freshman Alex Auman, who is a student at Richmond Ninth Grade Academy School, will have the task of trading shots against the best in the Mid-Southeastern Conference.
York stated Auman’s dad, Chris, was a former Raider tennis player and has helped his son in his development. Auman was runner-up in the 16-year-old bracket of the Chris McLean Memorial Tennis Tournament last March as a 14-year-old.
“It’s going to be pretty hard playing against players in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade,” Auman said. “But I understand good competition is only going to make me better for next year. I just got to play as good as I can. The key is making as few errors as I can and try to force them to make errors. I’ve got to use my forehand effectively and come into the net and attack.”
Auman and Wheeler will serve as Richmond’s No. 1 doubles’ team. The Raiders will open up against Jack Britt on March 3 at 4 p.m. York believes Jack Britt will be one of the conference favorites.
“It’s going to be tough trying to win against more veteran teams like Britt, Scotland and Pinecrest,” York said. “We’re hoping we can find a way a win against teams like Westover, Seventy-First or Hoke. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m hoping for six to seven wins. If we do that, then we’ve accomplished a great deal.”
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