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Boys tennis team looks to rebuild

Rob Benson thought last year was going to be a rebuilding season after losing a number of key pieces from Salisbury’s historic 2017 team. And it was.

But 2019 might be even more a rebuild for the long-term Falcon boys tennis head coach.

After finishing 4-9 last year in the Colonial League, Salisbury returns some of its key pieces from that season. But a number of them are switching positions as the upcoming spring season gets underway.

“My No. 1 last year is playing No. 3,” Benson said. “My No. 2 is not on the team. I would say that I’m pleasantly surprised at my No. 2 doubles team…They are 2-0. I don’t want to say it’s a rebuilding year, but it is.”

The Falcons are currently 0-2, suffering early season losses to Notre Dame-Green Pond (3-2) and Palisades (4-1).

Last year’s top singles player, Patrick To, is back and now playing at the No. 3 position. Dylan Weber, who played doubles last spring, has slid into the No. 1 singles position early in the season. And Chris Marinos has transitioned from No. 3 to No. 2 singles after Aaron Kahn decided not to return this season.

Those three are continuing to make strides on the singles circuit despite a tough start record-wise to the season.

In the Falcons’ most recent match, Weber fell to Palisades’ Michael Swope in straight sets (6-2, 6-1), while Marinos came up short against Gavin Kelly (6-0, 6-1). Tim Gehmen needed three sets to down To (3-6, 7-5, 6-1).

The singles group is a talented one, but Benson also has a talented group of doubles players that have been impressive so far. The No. 2 tandem of sophomore CJ Ekdahl and junior Tanner Ruth, both in their first year playing the sport, were undefeated through two matches.

“They are both new,” Benson said. “They’ve got some nice chemistry together. I think my No. 1 doubles, which is Brad Hnatow and Dylan Thompson, will be our strength.

“I’m pleased with the effort of the kids. We just don’t have what we used to have.”

The duo defeated Palisades’ Sean Johnson and Cortez Catalano without losing a point in straight sets (6-0, 6-0). The other tandem of Hnatow and Thompson, although falling short against Palisades, provides a nice one-two punch for Benson.

Like every year, he hopes to qualify for the district team tournament. This year might be a bit more of a challenge than recent seasons.

“I would like to make the playoffs, but I’m not sure we will,” Benson said. “We lost to Notre Dame-Green Pond, which is probably the second-best team in the league to Moravian, and we only lost 3-2. So, that’s a good thing.”

Results from Monday’s match at Kutztown were not available at time of press.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZDylan Weber played doubles last season but has moved to the No. 1 singles position this year.