A new era will begin with the new season for the Wellington Crusaders boys tennis team. First year Head Coach, Allen Keller has taken the helm from long-time coach, Brian Aufdengarten.
Keller has spent the last couple of weeks adjusting to his new role.
"I've never coached a high school tennis team before but I've worked with high school tennis players since my oldest son played tennis back in 1996," Keller said. The coach played tennis collegiality, worked as a tennis instructor for racket clubs, and runs the Summer tennis program for the Wellington Rec Commission. This background makes for a smooth, coaching transition.
"There's only a couple of the kids on the team right now that I haven't worked with," Keller said. "...I feel real comfortable out there, I know these kids." Two of the 14 players on the roster are seniors.
Brian Peck, senior, who was one victory away last season from being the 4A Doubles State Champion with the coach's son, Evan Keller, Class of 2012. The duo lost in the Finals to a duo from Independence, Kan.
"He [Peck] wants to try singles this year, so he's going to be my number one singles player," Keller said; Chaz Crittenden, senior, returns to bring experience to the team. "I've got a bout five other returners and four of them want to play doubles together." Besides the two seniors, the coach has a roster filled with green players, which presents it's own set of challenges.
"It's getting them the fundamentals, I think a couple of these people have never held a tennis racket until a couple of weeks ago," the coach said. "In a way there's an advantage there, because they haven't developed a lot of bad habits." Keller added that he's been pleased with the progress his young players have made in the early-goings of the season.
The first contest of the year is next Tuesday, March 26 in Wellington at Sellers Park. Augusta, El Dorado, Kingman, and Eisenhower High School's will be in town at 3 p.m.
"We're already working on that," Keller said of the first contest. "We're having our singles players hit with each other and I'm trying to teach them a little bit about strategy, and how to construct a point, how to win a point and how to be patient..." The new coach is confident in his team's chances of winning the first tournament.
Other players to keep an eye on this season will be sophomore's Dutch Brownlee, Tyler Pettegrew, and Jon Ryberg. They along with Crittenden will make up the pool of WHS doubles players this year.
"We'll come up with two really good combination there," Keller said. After the tourney next Tuesday, the tennis team takes off for a match in Chaparral on April 2, then at Andover High School on April 4.