LHS tennis varsity spots are earned regardless of class By DAVID WATSON / email@example.com • Friday, September 16, 2011
Then they have to compete each week to stay there.
Varsity positions are few for the Plainsmen and Lady Plainsmen — eight each with two singles players and three doubles teams — especially with roster full of 64 players.
“The kids know they earn the privilege to play at a particular spot,” 11th-year LHS coach Carlos Mellizo said. “We try to keep the spots as stable as possible, but sometimes we shuffle it around to see what works best.”
Sometimes the best options come from the younger players.
Sophomore Dylan Bainer and freshman Robin Drummond are two examples by holding onto the two singles spots for the Plainsmen.
“Those two have a tremendous amount of potential. Even though they are underclassmen, they are savvy leaders and set a good example for the whole program in practice,” Mellizo said.
Bainer made the switch from baseball to tennis not long ago.
“I didn’t want to play baseball in the summer anymore, and after Little League, I decided to try something else,” Bainer said. “I got into tennis by going to some of the summer clinics and liked it a lot.
“I just love the feeling of winning points, hitting the ball and I started watching a lot of tennis too.”
Bainer played No. 3 doubles as a freshman. He partnered with Tommy Johnson to win the South Conference consolation bracket at 2-1 and finished 2-2 at the state tournament.
This is Drummond’s first crack at the high school level after playing competitively for three years.
“It’s different. I’ve played in a lot of USTA sanctioned tournaments and national tournaments, but there is nothing quite like the high school sports environment,” Drummond said. “I didn’t know what to expect or where I was going to end up. I’ve known Coach Mellizo for a while, and I was just excited to be playing for the team.”
Bainer, Drummond and other LHS players benefited from playing in the youth programs of Laramie’s Alpine Tennis Association.
“The Alpine Tennis Association has a great potential to be every bit as influential as other Laramie youth sports programs,” Mellizo said. “We are starting to see some players from the youth program come through the ranks and contribute at the varsity level. We consider it a big part of the future of our program.”
Both the Plainsmen (7-1 overall, 4-0 South) and Lady Plainsmen (6-2, 4-0) close out the regular season this weekend. They will play conference matches today against Rock Springs (10 a.m.) and Green River (1 p.m.) at the courts at the high school, junior high school and University of Wyoming Tennis Complex.
Prep tennis in Wyoming is a unique season with a short window of playing time. Practices started Aug. 15 for one month of competitions with several matches per week.
“It’s an unbelievable whirlwind. The lion’s share of our improvement occurs between Oct. 1 and Aug. 15, which is the off-season,” Mellizo said.
“We rely on kids to play and develop their game independent from the tennis season.
“Then we do what we can with them during the seven weeks of the season, which is a surprising amount.”
The regional tournament is slated for Sept. 23-24 at Cheyenne South High. The state tournament will be Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Gillette.