WATERTOWN — The Lowville boys tennis team has grown into a championship-caliber squad.
The Red Raiders are 6-0 in Frontier League play and are coming off claiming the league tournament title Monday at Watertown High School.
Lowville won four out of the five tournament divisions to get the league crown after missing out in 2022. Carthage and Lowville tied for the league regular-season title in 2022. Many of the Red Raiders core players are seniors and that experience has helped them become the top team in the league.
“They’ve all (grown) and been playing together since seventh grade,” Lowville coach Jim Rhodes said. “They’re all really good friends off the court and they really like each other.”
A number of the players have been key parts of the team since their freshman or sophomore years, creating for chemistry and a close-knit bond for the Red Raiders.
“I think growing up together really helped us,” said Nick Hetzner, who won the second doubles crown. “I appreciate going to practice every day knowing that I’ve got friends that I can compete with.”
Lowville’s lineup is packed with experience from top to bottom. This depth has helped build up an unbeaten record where players can step up if one players losses a match.
“Having a deep lineup helps out a lot, so we can rely on each other like that,” said David Fayle, who was the third singles champion at the league tournament. “We know each other so well.”
Rhodes may be in his 15th season in charge of the boys program, but he was walking around the courts at Watertown checking in on all of his players. The early rounds saw four Lowville matches going on at one, but Rhodes communicated with all of them. Veteran players like Hetzner welcome their coach checking on them during matches.
“His knowledge mid-match is definitely helpful when I’m playing and I’m missing things as a player,” Hetzner said. “He just knows and he’s trying to watch everybody that he possibly can.”
It’s not just strategy that Rhodes imparts on his team, as the decorated coach in tennis and volleyball sometimes has something funny to say. Humor is something that’s helped the team in its rise during the past couple of seasons.
“He always has something encouraging to say or something funny to lighten the mood,” Fayle said. “He’s always got something to help us and I look forward to talking to him at the fence.”
Lowville is looking to get ready for Section 3 play, which starts Wednesday with the Division II tournament at the Utica Parkway Courts.
The team has taken some nonleague matches against Mexico and other schools outside the area. The Red Raiders may be facing a tall order in taking on the Syracuse- and Utica-area schools that often play tennis year round. However, Lowville knows it has a good team and wants to surprise some people.
“This group has played before in sectionals before and they battle,” Rhodes said. “They do their best, try to keep that ball in play and keep plugging away.”
The Frontier League tournament served as a good measuring stick for the Red Raiders in their preparation for sectionals. Having to play multiple matches in a day like the league tournament is something Lowville will have to do when it gets into the postseason.
“I enjoy playing tournaments like this with us playing back-to-back matches,” Hetzner said.
Fayle is hoping to end his tennis career on a high note in sectional play as well. He also said he thinks the tournament draw will play a big hand in his performance.
“It’s hard to say how I’ll do because I don’t know who I’m playing (in sectionals),” Fayle said.
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