Milford tennis preview: Davis, Wolfenden earn top singles positions for Bucs

MILFORD – With two days remaining until the season-opener, the Milford High tennis program is making final preparations for the 2018 campaign.

Head coach Jacquelyn Powers, who served as the head coach for the girls’ team last season, will now take on head coaching duties for both the girls’ and boys’ teams.

During practice Monday, March 19, the team wrapped up its challenge tournament and coach Powers was able to solidify the lineups ahead of Thursday’s regular season opener against Cape Henlopen.

“We have a ladder system, and the challenge tournament is for their position,” coach Powers explained Monday afternoon. “So if they win, they keep climbing the ladder. I do have a freshman, Summer Davis, who right now is challenging for top singles position on the girls’ team.”

When all was said and done Monday, Davis had earned the top singles spot on the girls’ team, with juniors Jasmine Wright and Jessica Gabriel-Perez solidifying the second and third singles positions.

An impressed coach Powers claimed she’s never had a freshman who earned the top singles spot.

Girls’ lineup

1st singles: Summer Davis
2nd singles: Jasmine Wright
3rd singles: Jessica Gabriel-Perez
1st doubles: Olivia Cromer/Alina Bashkirova
2nd doubles: Lauren Becton/Emily Sylvester

Wright and Gabriel-Perez, competing as the team’s MVP first doubles duo last season as sophomores, both took a step up and will begin their respective junior campaign as singles players.

Emily Sylvester, the lone senior on coach Powers’ girls squad, has been named captain and will team up with junior Lauren Becton at second doubles.

According to coach Powers, both squads will re-challenge and finalize the positions upon return from spring break in early April, so the current positions may see a slight shift once the team enters the Henlopen South portion of the schedule in April.

“After the first couple of matches we’ll be able to re-challenge and re-evaluate and hopefully get them into official positions somewhere around the time of spring break to get them ready for conference matches,” she said Monday afternoon.

Boys’ lineup

1st singles: Riley Wolfenden
2nd singles: Gunnar Folke
3rd singles: Sam Rauch
1st doubles: Jordan Tribbett/Matthew Stangl
2nd doubles: Evan Campbell/Dominic Piper

For the boys, all three seniors earned positions in the heading into Thursday’s opener and a trio of freshmen will also be competing in the lineup as the season gets underway this week.

“For the boys, we have a little switch this year,” coach Powers said. “Riley will be taking over as first singles and Gunnar will be second singles this year, both of them are seniors.”

Riley, who served as a member of the first doubles duo last season, jumped up three spots to solidify the No. 1 spot heading into the season.

Folke, who was No. 1 singles last year, has been named captain of the boys’ team by coach Powers.

Freshman Matthew Stangl, who coach Powers described as an “unstoppable freshman with great potential going forward” will compete with senior Jordan Tribbett in the first doubles position.

The second doubles team features a pair of freshmen, Evan Campbell and Dominic Piper.

Milford feeder program

One of the secrets of success in high school athletics is oftentimes a successful middle school feeder program.

Last year, coach Powers was able to launch a feeder program at the middle school to garner more interest in the sport.

“Last year they started the program, and it’s an enrichment so if they’re passing all their classes at the middle school they get to choose an extra elective at the end of the day,” she said. “Since I teach at the middle school, I did tennis training so a lot of them signed up for that and I was able to introduce them to the sport and even kind of got them working with the high school kids last year.”

Davis and Stangl both came from that program and, now as freshmen, will be able to make an immediate impact at the high school level.

“They even did challenges in that program, so Summer and Matt were really ready to just jump right in this year which is nice. As a sophomore, Matt might be able to go for top singles next year.”

Co-ed practices

With coach Powers taking over the reins of the boys’ squad this season, the Milford tennis program has been able to have co-ed practices this year.

“They’re all really enjoying the co-ed situation, and now the boys instead of having the same singles players to play against we have six singles players who can work as a team and challenge different players. I do like that they can do challenges together.

The coaching situation also means, rather than having separate boys and girls schedules, both squads will play the same school and same site this year rather than having home-away matches.

“We haven’t quite figured out how matches will work, but I think what we’re going to do is all follow the same schedule and have boys go early and girls go late. We’ll make it work.”

The plan is to find a new head coach for the boys’ team next year, and have coach Powers go back to coaching the girls.

“My top singles player for the girls now has competition every day with my top singles player for the boys, and they all have different competition with each other of the same ability level. Singles can stay working with singles and doubles can all work together.”

Overall, it has worked out well for coach Powers and both squads so far.

Team goals/values

“Usually I have my seniors pick values that we want to look for this year. In the past it’s been dedication, team work, commitment to the program. I can tell you already, my seniors have really instilled that dedication,” coach Powers said. “It’s been miserable out here in the freezing cold. It took me two hours after Wednesday’s practice just to thaw out my toes, but they’ve been out here every day. We haven’t been inside much, we’ve been out here in this weather every day. They’ve been dedicated and that’s what I like to see.”

Thursday, March 22, Milford opens the regular season with a home match against Cape Henlopen. The boys will begin at 3 p.m. while the girls are slated for a 4 p.m. start.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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