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Falcon tennis returns top singles player

When Rob Benson first started playing tennis at the age of 14, it was across the country using wooden rackets in southern California as a high school student. He recalls playing in 70-degree weather in the heart of December.

Since relocating to the east coast many years ago that warm December weather has been nonexistent. But for the first time in many years, Benson and the Salisbury boys tennis team are on the courts for the first day of practice with no snow in sight.

In this his final season leading the boys program, Benson led the first day of practice on Monday with much of last year’s team returning. The nine-year coach will coach the girls team in the fall season to culminate his career.

“It’s the first time in about five or six years I haven’t had snow on the courts,” Benson said. “We haven’t had this in so long…It was nice to be able to get out on the first day of practice.

“It’s been a good run, a nice nine years. We’ve had some great teams. But it’s just time. I’m going to be 75 here, and I can’t do what I could do when I was 66.”

Patrick To, who played on the singles circuit last season, and doubles player Brad Hnatow, have both graduated after the Falcons finished 4-9 in the Colonial League in 2019. But returning five other starters from last year bodes well for the team.

Dylan Weber returns as the No. 1 singles player after a successful 2019 campaign that included a win in the District 11 Class 2A singles tournament. The trio of Chris Marinos, Dylan Thompson and Jeff Seybolt figure to see time in the other two singles spots.

“We’ve got two underclassmen coming out that they have to learn how to play,” Benson said. “But I got everybody back except two people. I lost one of my singles players and one of my doubles players from last year.

“I think we can probably win eight or nine [of our 13 matches] for sure. We could make the playoffs. That’s my hope.”

Tanner Ruth and CJ Ekdahl played together last season at No. 2 doubles and likely will pair up again this spring. The duo won a match during last season’s district doubles tournament as well.

The other pair will be a new pair, which is likely to include first-year player Donovan Zong and returnee Caden Lagunilla. Nico Jones is a senior who figures to see time on the court as well.

“I have a new senior coming out, Donovan, and he looks like he is going to be a good doubles player,” Benson said. “For the first day, it’s pretty much just hitting and seeing what they can do. I have a few days now at least to hopefully see how they can hit and get into it.”

Salisbury opens its season on March 16 against Kutztown. The Falcons are hoping to open with a win that propels the blue and white to a successful season for Benson’s final run.

“It’s tough to tell after the first day,” Benson said. “But if I can get them to play smart, rather than just going for the big hits all of the time, then we’ll be all right.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZSalisbury's Dylan Weber returns to the Falcon tennis team after playing in the top singles position last year.