After another undefeated season and multiple state championships, the Riders boys tennis team was the obvious choice for Team of the Year.
Led by Coach James Harvey in his 30th season with the boys team, Caesar Rodney captured the second-straight team state championship to go along with Henlopen conference tournament and regular-season titles and an undefeated 15-0 record.
“It was a great year,” said senior state champion Jared Morris. “We were 20 times better than I thought we’d be.”
After losing seniors from last year’s team and returning from knee surgery, Morris knew this season would be a test for both him and the team.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win states,” Morris said. “There were people out there hunting for us.”
Morris took his momentum and experience from last season, where he also won the individual state title, and used it to help his team develop. In fact, Morris expects next season’s team to be even better without him.
“Jared Morris was by far our best and most talented player,” Harvey said. “His work ethic and team leadership certainly set the tempo for all our players.”
After overcoming some early-season injuries, most notably to Morris, who re-aggravated his knee injury in practice, the team regrouped and gained key additional experience for the younger players.
Along with Morris, Caesar Rodney had two other notable singles players. Nate Parker also won the individual state title in his third singles group, while Nikola Sijan earned second place in the second singles division.
“Winning conferences was the jumping-off point to winning states,” Parker said. “We just wanted to bring home a state title for Caesar Rodney.”
Parker, who continued to play during the season despite a sprained ankle, said the experience and confidence boost that came with the conference championship was huge in preparing for the state tournament.
“The goal is for all of us to win states,” Parker said. “We all know what we have to do. We always expect to win. By the end of May, we’re going to be state champions.”
For next season, the Riders and Harvey expect to compete at the highest level yet again. The team returns five starters and only loses two seniors — Morris and doubles first-teamer Purav Patel.
“Our expectations are always the same,” Harvey said. “We play to have fun and learn how to play and enjoy the game of tennis.”