Coaler tennis hopes for new talent in wake of losing 11 seniors

Brent Sumner
Staff Writer

    Coal City’s boys tennis team faces the challenge of having 11 seniors depart the program from last year, including three of their best: Nick Holmes, Trent Sula and Mike McGinn.
    All three left their mark on the Coal City program, with Holmes being the first boys tennis player in 29 years to advance to the state tournament in singles competition.
    Sula and McGinn also went to state two years in a row as the No. 1 doubles team for Coal City.
    The departure of those three players has left a gap in the lineup as the first match looms.
    The Coalers will be coached by Jeremy Unger, who is entering his first year at the helm of the program. He takes over for Matt Leman, and served as the assistant coach last year.
    He will take over the program that hit its stride last year, finishing with an 11-7 record (best in eight years), and also secured a second place as a team in the Sectional, falling to LaSalle-Peru.
    “Because we lost a lot of players last year, we have quite a bit of question marks this year,” said Unger. “I am very interested to see who is going to step up.”
    Unger admitted that while the program saw a lot of its leading players, he will have plenty of newcomers eager to fill positions that are up for grabs.
    Two returning varsity players this year will be Joey Fatigante and Logan Schoen.
    Fatigante and Schoen were both doubles players last year, pairing up with Adam McLuckie and Jake Weisman, respectively.
    However, there is still the question of where they will fit this year.
    “The lineup is not set as of right now,” said Unger. “I do not know where each player will fit.”
    Another possible returning player will be Xander Smith, who filled the No. 3 singles spot last year as a freshman.
    Other than that, Unger admits that most of the roster will be full of players that will experience their first year at the varsity level.
    “I would most certainly say our weakness is our lack of experience, as most of our lineup will be new to varsity,” he added. “Our strength is those players that will be playing on varsity this year are eager to prove themselves and compete at the level.”
    The Coalers have little time to acclimate to the varsity level as they begin competition on Saturday at the Lincoln-Way Central quad.
    They will then return home to face Princeton on April 4, and Joliet Catholic Academy on April 6.
    Their two toughest matches could come within the second week of the schedule when the Coalers host Yorkville (April 10) and Mendota (April 13).
    “My guess is Mendota will be our toughest opponent in conference, and Yorkville will be our toughest out of conference,” Unger said. “Mendota has an excellent coach and usually has a strong team every year, same goes for Yorkville. Both teams have a lot of talent.”
    With a tough road ahead, the Coalers will be hoping to continue their success from last year, and finish with another winning record.
    Their ultimate goal will be put to the test in May, when they compete in the IHSA Sectional.