By Craig Marx, Editor
The Antigo boys tennis team is one of the few spring sports this year that is not facing an epic turnover of players, being blessed with the return of all but one player from last season.
Entering their third year in Division II, the Robins bring back the likes of their top tier of players with the exception of Jack McKenna, a graduate in 2016, bringing the number up to 15 total players as of last week. Senior Tyler Husnick looks to have secured the No. 1 singles position, while Drew Schwarz and Ben Bartletti both return to doubles form after qualifying for state last year.
Schwarz and Bartletti, finishing the last year’s regular season in the GNC 4-0, were seeded No. 8 in the WIAA’s big dance, falling 6-3 and 7-6 to a pair from The Prairie School, a private school in southeastern Wisconsin.
Cole Johnson and Collin Schedlbauer also make their return to the court this year in the No. 2 doubles spot, gaining experience last season with a 4-2 overall record.
Husnick, returning in the top singles spot, posted a 7-1 conference record in a GNC that was barely claimed by rival Rhinelander in 2016. While both teams finished 7-1 in meet records, a one match advantage allowed the Hodags to slip past the Robins in total conference points at 128 to Antigo’s 120.
Coach Dave Zalewski, who has been involved in tennis his entire life and has been coaching the boys’ varsity program now for nine years, articulated the fierce rivalry his men have experienced recently with Rhinelander.
“Here’s a perfect example,” Zalewski explained. “Last year, up in Rhinelander, we were down 4-1 across the board but we came back and won. The tiebreaker came down to the No. 2 doubles match. We ended up 5-5 and 7-4 to win it. The Rhinelander crowd was stunned. It was great.”
Rhinelander plays host to the GNC conference meet to end the regular season, offering a fitting way to perhaps upset the home crowd once again. Other key matchups include a home meet against the Hodags on April 20th and a later trip to Rhinelander on May 11 – just four days before the conference meet.
The Robins begin their season with a quad meet at Wausau West on April 8th, giving Coach Zalewski and his men roughly a week and a half’s worth of official practice time on the court. Unlike most other sports, boys’ tennis is not limited to a finite number of contact days in the offseason, a rule that Zalewski and a number of other coaches were happy to have changed.
Though actual coaching during offseason practices is generally frowned upon by the WIAA, Zalewski is able to host his Wednesday evening open gyms and keep prospective players active. While larger schools often times have the benefit of more exclusive practice opportunities, including private clubs and instruction, the relaxed offseason rules and move to Division II have benefitted Antigo tennis over the past few years.
“It is difficult to play against these bigger programs when your team is too small in numbers to compete,” Coach Zalewski explained. “This is our third year in Division II and I think it allows us to be that much more competitive.”
2017 AHS Boys Tennis Schedule
Saturday, April 8 – Quad Meet at Wausau West (vs. Pulaski, Rhinelander, and Wausau West) – Wausau West Courts (9 AM)
Thursday, April 13 – Triangular Meet at Medford (vs. Phillips and Medford) – Medford Area High School (3 PM)
Tuesday, April 18 – at Lakeland – Lakeland Union High School (5 PM)
Thursday, April 20 – vs. Rhinelander – Elleson Tennis Court (5 PM)
Tuesday, April 25 – vs. Pacelli – Elleson Tennis Court (4:30 PM)
Thursday, April 27 – at Xavier – Clintonville High School (4 PM)
Tuesday, May 2 – Triangular Meet at Antigo (vs. Medford and Phillips) – Elleson Tennis Court (3 PM)
Thursday, May 4 – vs. Lakeland – Elleson Tennis Court (5 PM)
Tuesday, May 9 – at Rhinelander – Rhinelander High School (5 PM)
Thursday, May 11 – at Newman Catholic – Oak Island Park (4:30 PM)
Saturday, May 13 – GNC Conference Meet at Rhinelander – Rhinelander High School (9 AM)