MANCHESTER - The sound of tennis balls meeting the strings of a racquet could be heard in the Dana Thompson Memorial Rec Park on Monday as members of the Burr and Burton Academy boys tennis team warmed up during their first outdoor practice of the season.

The weather has begun to cooperate and it appears that BBA's first match of the season against Mount Anthony Union High School which is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 21, at the rec will take place as expected.

This year will be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs who lost their No. 1, 2 and 3 singles starters - Brennan Webb, Kevin Walla and Dave Shehadi, respectively - to graduation last year.

However, coach Pete McNealus indicated that this year is not lot like a typical rebuilding year.

The team will be led by a pair of dynamic freshmen in Peter Oh - who will be the No. 1 starter - and Sam Cochrane.

"They're [playing] the highest level of tennis I've ever seen [of] a freshmen [whose] come into Burr and Burton," said McNealus. "They play tournaments. They play year round. They play indoors. They take the sport very seriously. So, big things to come from those two freshmen."

Noah Wetherald is one of the returning members of the team and McNealus said he could potentially move up a couple of spots and serve as the team's No. 3 starter this year.

Though the lineup had not been finalized as of press time, McNealus said that Justin Tegen and Justin Walla might fill out the rest of the singles lineup.


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Junior Conor Harrington has the potential to play either singles or doubles, McNealus said as does Nick Fayette.

Cam Marcellus will be playing doubles this year and McNealus said that Coley Stillman potentially will as well.

"The good thing is nine play and I only have 10 on the team so everyone will see a lot of [playing time,]" said McNealus.

Christian Webb rounds out the roster for BBA.

Although this year's team is young, McNealus does not expect that to negatively impact them.

"The two freshmen, Sam and Peter, have an extensive knowledge and also maturity in the sport of tennis, So, their maturity and their game is right up there. They also, because of that, bring up everyone else's play too," said McNealus. "With the other ones, even with the two Justins from last year, their maturity level has come up. Now they're starting to take tennis more serious and to the next level so it's exciting to see the play going up."

The team began practicing a couple of weeks ago - playing primarily indoors in Bennington due to the weather conditions - and McNealus said he can already see improvement among some of the players.

"During those times, even though they're short, you could see the progression that these kids were making," McNealus said. "Some of these kids have not picked up a racquet since the summer time. So, once they started to pick them up you could just see their level [of play] starting to take off. It was really encouraging to see them get better as they were playing."

One of the areas that McNealus said he would like to see the team improve is in consistently getting the ball over the net more than their opponent.

"Those are the ones, especially at the (No.) three, four and five, those are the people that win matches that you need to get the ball over because if you do that there's a good chance that the other opponent will make a mistake," said McNealus. "So that's why you want to be consistent. You don't want to be the person making that mistake."

Consistently getting the ball over the net will allow the players to wear down their opponent by causing them to cover ground on the court McNealus said.

While the strategy has the potential to work against the Bulldogs as well, McNealus said that some of the players are in good condition coming into the season.

"Some of them play other sports. Some of them surprisingly came into the sport stronger than I've seen them the year before. Some of that's maturity, but two of them were running [cross country,] one of them was playing basketball all year," said McNealus.

As for the goals McNealus has for the team this season, he said he wants his players to reach their full potential.

"[The goal is for] the top singles to play at a higher level constantly so they can get batter and also [have that happen] down through the lower kids too," said McNealus.

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