Father Gabriel Richard gave the term “good season” new meaning in 2017 when its men’s tennis team finally wrapped up last year’s campaign.
How’s this for a résumé:
- 4-0 Catholic League Division Championship record; best in school history.
- 8-1 overall record; best in school history.
- Regional finalist: best in school history.
- Fourth at State Tournament: best in school history.
Sense a recurring theme? You got it. It was the Fighting Irish’s best men’s tennis season ever.
And they’re looking to get better.
“We have high expectations this year,” said Jim Sayed, entering his 13th season as the FGR tennis coach. “We want to see if we can at least match last season, if not exceed it.
“We’ve got some nice returners, some real hard-working athletes.”
Leading the way will be No. 1 singles Ian Sood, a two-time State Finalist who moves up from No. 2 last year.
“It will be a challenge to move up to No. 1, but I believe it’s a challenge he’s up to,” said Sayed. “He’s got the all-around game for it. It’s an all-court game. He’s strong from the baseline and he’s quick and athletic enough to get to the net.
“I’m looking for some big things out of him.”
Right behind Sood will be Tommy Heegan, who will play at No. 2 singles after reaching the State Semifinals at No. 4 singles last year.
“Tommy is an excellent baseline player with strong ground strokes, who will face a challenge moving up to No. 2,” said Sayed. “But he’s looking to become more of a threat at the net, and if that can happen, I see no reason why he can’t play well at No. 2.”
Sayed has reason to smile when he speaks of his two top players. Not only did each do well in the State Tournament in 2017, but each is a junior.
“It’s rare to have your No.1 and No.2 both be juniors, so we have a luxury, there,” Sayed said. “If each of them continue to work hard and progress, we should expect good things from them over the next two seasons.”
Sood and Heegan will lead the way, but Sayed coaches far from a two-man team. Eight of 12 starters come back from last year, with four JV players from 2017 coming up to fill roles on the 2018 varsity squad. No.1 and No.2 will be important, but the other 10 starters will be pivotal, as well.
“No.3 and No.4 are important, and the doubles will be key,” Sayed said. “If we want to match or improve upon last season, our depth will be what gets us there.”
So how does FGR improve on a championship season?
“Well, we finished 8-1 but a lot of those were very close,” Sayed said. “We’re happy to use that experience to win more decisively this year, to give us more confidence going into the tournament.”
The Irish kicked off their season Saturday with a quad at Chelsea. Edwardsburg and Dearborn Divine Child will also be there. Then they square off Tuesday on the road at Canton.
“Those are good tests right away and that’s the way I prefer it,” Sayed said. “It will be a good measuring stick; we’ll know where we stand.”