Success measured in improvement

Published 11:09 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Due to the lack of experience and age on his team’s roster, Randolph-Henry High School Head Boys Tennis Coach Ian Woodley knew this was not likely to be a season during which success would manifest itself in an accumulation of wins.

Woodley indicated that the biggest obstacle to success his players will encounter this year will be the temptation to be overly critical of their own performances as they face strong competition.

“In matches, they are going up against guys who have been playing tennis for years,” Woodley said. “Every player on our team has only been playing since February. Naturally, this leads to some lopsided scores. The team is made up of guys who are hardworking and dedicated. They hate to lose. They need to know just how much better they have become as the season has progressed.”

The 2017 Statesmen are comprised of one senior, one junior, six sophomores and two freshmen.

“While we have not won a match this season, I could not be happier with the commitment and effort that the players have shown,” Woodley said. “Given the inexperience of the players, it was always going to be difficult in terms of wins and losses. However, every player has shown a tremendous improvement over the course of the season.”

Randolph-Henry is also competing this year in the wake of a major loss due to the 2016 graduation — Brycen Boettcher.

“He graduated and is currently playing tennis for Randolph-Macon (College),” Woodley said. “We have no returning players from last season.”

Posed with the question of who he would classify as up-and-comers on his team — players that are quiet now but will gain notoriety as the season progresses — Woodley said, “I put all of my players in the category of up-and-comers.”

A couple of them gained special mention from the coach when he was prompted to list standouts.

“Two players that have really impressed me are Austin Shook and Larkin Jackson,” he said. “Like the rest of the team, these two have never played tennis before. However, their performances have been impressive, and they show great potential.”

Woodley said that his current top-six singles seeds are as follows: Austin Shook at No. 1, Larkin Jackson at No. 2, Cole Pillow at No. 3, Walker Newcomb at No. 4, Caleb Calhoun at No. 5 and Blake Byrd at No. 6.

The Statesmen have played in four matches so far this season, having hosted Halifax County High School, Goochland High School and Appomattox County High School, while also visiting Halifax County. The final team score in each case was 9-0, but this likely serves as another key reason Woodley is emphasizing the measurable ways his players are improving — even if scores and win-loss records do not reflect it.

Randolph-Henry is set to visit Appomattox County High School on Friday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m.