Bentonville West’s boys tennis team started from scratch last summer and came away with its first all-state performer when Hayden Shoemake finished fourth in singles play during the Class 7A state tournament.
The sophomore now becomes the foundation the Wolverines can build upon as they begin their second season.
“Most of our players last year were fairly new to tennis,” West coach Hunter Alexander said. “So we’ve managed to work hard in the spring and summer and able to pick up a few ninth-graders that just started going to West.
“We’ve picked up several good players that way and continued to recruit through the school and from other sports. We’ve nearly doubled our numbers this year, so that’s always a win. I’m really excited because I think we have a great team.”
The Wolverines may have everybody back and have added a few more faces, but they still remain extremely young. Their recruitment throughout other sports brought in the lone senior — Boston Barron, who played basketball at West last year.
In fact, nine of the 12 West players are either freshmen or sophomores. That includes Shoemake, who spent the entire summer in tournament mode while playing at United States Tennis Association events.
“It’s nice to return everybody from last year and have that kind of experience,” Alexander said. “Hayden is an amazing player, and as good as he was last year, he’s even better this year. He plays nonstop and works hard.”
Alexander is counting on junior Taylor Brandt to head up the doubles teams. Freshman Harshit Dhayal will follow Shoemake in singles play, while Ogden Wells is expected to fill a role in the doubles teams. A third, freshman, Andrew Kapales is expected to carry another role on the varsity team.
Bentonville West girls
Just like the boys, West’s girls have everybody back from last year’s team, and the Lady Wolverines have doubled their roster this season.
Leading the way is sophomore Sarah Schneringer, who reached the state tournament in singles play, and the doubles team of seniors Mackenzie Bing and Rachna Parachuri. West, however, picked up a valuable transfer in senior Avery Hargrove, one-half of Bentonville High’s state championship doubles team last year.
“I’m very excited with the three seniors we have,” Alexander said. “I’m looking at their senior leadership being able to carry us on the girls side. We have a lot of expectation, and I think the girls have a lot of expectation carrying over from last year.
“Last year, they were just happy to be out there. Now it’s time to work. I told them during the spring that we made history by just showing up here. Just showing up is not good enough any more. Now it’s time to work hard, have fun and compete. We have to show the other schools in our conference and our state that we will be a tennis school.”
Sophomore Jessica Hood appears to be ready to be a stronger singles player, while freshman Aubrey Kapales should also be a contributor to the team. The remaining players could alternate time between the varsity and junior varsity teams.