With district matches coming onto the calendar in just another week, the Mansfield tennis teams have been working hard and dealing with the heat.
In hopes of keeping the heat on other district opponents, including last season’s champion, Duncanville, the Tigers, who finished as runners-up, are playing pre-district matches and finalizing the fall season lineup.
The fall season is often referred to as “team tennis” as all matches count toward a total team score to determine the winner of a match.
Head coach John Stafford said Mansfield is getting in as many matches as possible before the start of school to see where the team stands going into the district schedule.
The Tigers had already logged matches with Summit, Weatherford and Hereford through last week and will be taking on Arlington Martin and Richland while pointing to the first district match of the season against Duncanville.
“We’ve been back and forth with Duncanville,” Stafford said of alternating wins when taking on the Panthers.
Mansfield has several boys returning, but lost two of their top six. Stafford said there are plenty waiting in line to step up, though.
Returning for Mansfield is Christian Leech, a senior who earned a trip to the spring state meet with doubles partner Kyle Moody last year.
Leech said last year’s fall team just missed out on qualifying for the regional meet, so the focus this year is taking that next step.
“It still feels like my freshman year,” Leech said of the season rapidly approaching and reflecting on starting his senior campaign.
Stafford said Leech will lead the way for the boys, who hadn’t dropped a set in their first three matches.
Much of the Tigers’ strength will be due to sophomores and juniors stepping in, along with Leech.
Alex Ruth and Ryan Hurt have been playing well and are at the top of the ladder, along with developing juniors and freshmen, Stafford said.
“The top six boys are all very strong and it is difficult for any of them to beat each other two-out-of-three times,” Stafford said of the comparable skill sets they possess. “They’re all nipping at Alex’s heels, but they are all making each other better every day.”
On the girls side, the Lady Tigers lost three of their top six from last season.
Delaney Alexander won some big matches last year as a sophomore and with no seniors on the team, Alexander is becoming a leader.
Deandra Fogel will also be counted on to contribute for the girls this season.
“Deandra has taken her lumps playing as number one last year,” Stafford. That should start paying dividends this year, though.
Building with youth this year may be a big plus in another year for Mansfield, but for now, Stafford is expecting others to step up and make this a pleasantly surprising season.
“We’re real excited and pleased,” Stafford said. “It’s going to be really competitive and we hope to keep it going.”
In addition to Duncanville being a top threat in the district, Stafford said Midlothian should be a team to contend with.