ROCKINGHAM — Last season was special for the Richmond Senior boys tennis team.
The Raiders finished with a 14-5 overall record and earned a berth in the state 4A dual team playoffs.
Coach Paula York understands it will be difficult to duplicate that success after losing three of her top six players, including Alex Auman.
“We have five returning, who did play some last year,” York said. “They didn’t play in every match, but they did get to play at some point. We lost our No. 1, 4 and 6 players from last year. We’re still young, but we have a good nucleus returning.”
Among the returnees for York are: Colt Auman, Andrew Balzer, Brandon Ingram and John Pittman.
All four were victorious Monday afternoon in the team’s season opener against South View.
Colt Auman, who replaces his brother Alex at No. 1, blanked Nick Dipaolo, 10-0. Balzer claimed a 10-2 victory over Damien Rautchan at the second singles spot. Ingram notched a shutout victory against Brian Yetter and Pittman downed Greg Gilmore, 10-3.
Those wins helped the Raiders (1-0) roll to a 7-2 victory against the Tigers. In the other matches: Richmond’s Logan Deese defeated Huanyo Lee, 10-3, in the No. 6 singles match. South View’s lone singles win came in the fifth match when Trey Duncombe downed Gary Boyette, 10-5. In doubles, Balzer and Ingram downed Dipaolo and Yetter, 8-0. Colt Auman and Pittman teamed to knock off Gilmore and Rautchan, 8-1. Duncombe and Lee beat Boyette and Deese, 8-3.
“It’s nice to have Colt, Andrew, Brandon and John back,” York said. “They have been working on their game. The majority of my players are also soccer players. They were looking for something to do and they are good athletes.”
York added if her team will repeat last season’s surprising playoff appearance, it will need to find a leader or two.
“We lost a big one with Alex,” York said. “He and Ryan McInnis were very good team captains. They spoke up and held people accountable. We only have one senior this year and we are looking for someone to take that leadership role.”
Richmond will return to the courts 4 p.m. today when it travels to Lee County.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.