By Jason Lawrence
Special to The Citizen
Coming off its third straight district titles, including last year’s Class 2 District 16 title, a retooling is in order for Park Hill.
The Trojans, who finished second in the Suburban Conference Gold Division and went 16-4, graduated six of their top seven players from a year ago and saw last year’s No. 1 player, Cooper Hayes, transfer to Park Hill South prior to his junior campaign. Hayes and his doubles partner, Chandler To, earned all-state honors last season as did the district champion pairing of Jake McFee and Grant Martin, but those four along with Matt Zhang (17-4 at No. 5 singles), Ryan Decker (15-5 at No. 6 singles) and Lucas Cuni-Mertz have all departed.
“We have no freshmen or newcomers in our top group,” said veteran head coach Rustin Reys, who is 104-79 overall at Park Hill. “All our varsity players will be kids who have come up through the program and played JV or novice last year.”
Senior Gabe Rau has settled into the No. 1 spot this season, but Reys and assistant coaches Tim Kallis and Zack Praiswater will have options when it comes to rounding out the other five spots in the lineup. Juniors Griffin Koski, Vince Gelbolinga, Blake Harris, Ean Ericksen and Carl Laude are all expected to compete at the varsity level in a yet-to-be-determined order.
Despite completely overhauling the roster, the Trojans once again expect to compete at both the conference and district levels in 2018.
“Our goal is to become district champs for the fourth year in a row and compete for a conference title,” Reys said. “Keys to success will be depth in our singles lineup — getting wins from Nos. 3-6 in the lineup — and winning doubles matches.”
Park Hill opens the season with four matches in a week, including three straight road contests against Liberty, Lee’s Summit West and Lee’s Summit before what Reys circled as one of the biggest contests on the schedule, the home opener against Park Hill South at 4 p.m. March 29.