Winning has become common-place for the Caesar Rodney boys tennis team. Once again, the Riders went undefeated in the regular season for the third consecutive season and have just one loss over the last 4 seasons combined. Also, CR captured their fourth Henlopen Conference Championship in a row, and they have now won a remarkable 12 of the last 14 Henlopen Conference Titles.
With all of that said, the Riders were the easy choice for 2013 “Team of the Year” in boys tennis.
While they didn’t bring home any individual hardware at the State Championships, each boys competitor from CR advanced past the second round of play.
Head Coach James Harvey believes it’s the work his team does behind the scenes and during the off season that really makes his Rider team so competitive.
“Our kids are self-motivated and they have a good work ethic, most if not all are working in the off season,” said Harvey. “That certainly helps our team; I think it’s the dedication in the off season.”
The team’s competitive nature starts with the training and preparation they all do during the off season leading up to the spring. However, the real work begins in the team’s annual tournament they have preseason against each other to test one another’s skills on the court.
“Some of them play other sports, a lot do play tennis or do take lessons or play on an outside tennis team,” said Harvey. “They’re working for next year and they get motivated during the season playing each other in a tournament we hold amongst ourselves at the beginning of the year to see where everyone stands. I’m always amazed at how competitive they all are.”
At 1st Singles, junior Nikola Sijan was ranked number one in the entire state heading into the state championships. Sijan had a very successful season, but came up short in the championships advancing to the quarterfinals before getting eliminated. However, Sijan believes he can learn from his experience this season and build on it heading into next year’s campaign.
“I had a pretty good season, so if I do what I did last year and learn from a couple mistakes and use it for motivation next year I should be all right,” said Sijan. “I trained my hardest and my head may have been a little blown up but I know how I’m capable of playing.”
It’s not hard to realize the amount of confidence Sijan has in himself or his team. That confidence was on full display this season as Sijan took on a leadership role, one that he plans on escalating next season, as well.
“I’ll be a senior next year, and at 1st singles most likely,” said Sijan. “I try to keep most of the kids in line, being a pretty young team we had some freshmen coming in and we wanted to get them ready for the season and for states. I’m more of a leader by example but if I do the right things out there hopefully they’ll look up to me and follow my lead.”
Harvey hopes he and the team can lean on Sijan next season as he’ll be one of the only seniors on the squad.
“Hopefully he’s the senior that steps up and becomes our captain and our leader, “said Harvey. “He’s been through the program and he knows how the practices have to be run. We’ve had some real great leaders in the past, Jared Morris two seasons ago and Nate Parker did an exactly job this year and we hope Nikola can do the same.”
With leadership like Sijan’s and the depth this young CR team already has, the future certainly looks bright.
“We had freshmen come in and perform, like Parker Barton who had a great season going 21-1 only losing in the finals at the states, that really helps coming in to next year, he’ll be 2nd or 3rd Singles for sure,” said Harvey. “We had 5 sophomores and 2 juniors, we’re young and there could be one or two more freshmen coming in next year.”