Sports

Cougars’ boys tennis crowded at the top

Central Kitsap boys tennis coach Christopher Floro goes over some things with his squad at practice on Thursday. - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Central Kitsap boys tennis coach Christopher Floro goes over some things with his squad at practice on Thursday.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

t But that’s a good thing for CK.

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

Since taking over as coach of Central Kitsap’s boys tennis program, Christopher Floro has always had a go-to guy.

Two years ago, it was Will Herbert, who ultimately advanced to state. Junior Daquiz followed last year as the Cougars clear No. 1 singles competitor.

But this year, it’s anyone’s game.

“This year will be a challenge,” Floro said. “Unlike in the past two years, with Will Herbert and Junior Daquiz, there’s very little difference in the talent and skill abilities with our top six players. It’s good in one sense. In another, it creates a challenge to distinguish those two singles players and develop doubles teams that will have chemistry.”

But it’s a problem Floro loves to have.

“It’s encouraging to have the depth and not having the falloff,” he said. “Honestly, if we replaced our two singles with two others, there really isn’t that much difference.”

Right now, Floro said he’s been impressed with the confidence junior Arnel Hipolito has displayed. And while there’s still time for things to change with practice challenge matches — in which lower-ranked players can challenge higher ranked players for their spot — Hipolito is slated as the No. 1 singles competitor with returning senior Aaron Russell at No. 2.

But junior Ben Miller is another right there in the mix.

“He’s a great raw talent,” Floro said. “He’s just a shade behind Russell and Hipolito because he hasn’t played that much singles.”

As far as doubles pairings, one was a no-brainer, Floro said.

“One particular pairing that started to work well last year are the Kim brothers,” he said of senior Christopher Kim and sophomore Andrew Kim. “Obviously, they have that sibling connection. That helps in terms of their play. One brother can always pick up the other brother.”

Also in the mix at both singles and doubles are seniors Andrew Daquiz and Jack Cavanaugh and sophomore Cameron Gilman, with seniors Luke Memovich and Kevin Barnes listed as alternates. And while the exact lineups won’t be set until just before CK takes on Wilson Wednesday at the Tacoma school, Floro’s not too worried.

“It actually is an excellent group,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

Andrew Daquiz, Russell, Hipolito and Miller all advanced to the Narrows League tournament last year, and Floro said they’re all fighting hard to get back again, using each other to literally bounce off of.

“They’re pushing each other,” Floro said. “I like the fact they’re pushing each other. But they’re pushing each other in a positive way. It’s not divisive. It’s not negative. It’s that competitive drive.”

Seeing the successes of Herbert and Junior Daquiz also have given this year’s Cougs something to shoot for.

“I think Will and Junior’s successes are good bench marks for the guys to try and emulate,” Floro said. “What we’ve had to try to stress to the seniors now is mental toughness. Will especially was very tough, very confident. Same thing with Junior.”

To build up that mental toughness, Floro said there’s several things they try to do.

“What I’ve at least tried to do is get them to focus on the things they’re doing well,” he said. “And serving is a big one. Double faults that give easy points to the opponents is a big one.”

But more than anything else, mental focus is the name of the game in high school tennis.

“When they start thinking about it, their arm stiffens up,” Floro said. “’I can’t believe I just did that!’ That’s what separates good players from great players.”

With the team’s added depth, Floro is confident the Cougars can finish in the top half of the Narrows League’s Bay Division this season.

“I really feel like, in terms of the solid depth here, we’ll be competitive with the top teams,” he said. “We’re in the top half of the league. I have a very good, solid confidence going into the season.”

CK begins with Wilson Wednesday before traveling to Klahowya for a Thursday non-league match at 4 p.m.

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