Niagara Gazette — The element that has made the Grand Island boys tennis team a mainstay atop the Niagara Frontier League for years is now an area of uncertainty.
The Vikings enter this season lacking the depth that earned them a share of the NFL title with North Tonawanda last year with a 12-2 record. It was the fourth league title for Grand Island coach Don Pray, who enters his 16th year as coach of the team.
Lost to graduation from the 2012 team are first singles player Justin Canazzi, and the undefeated first doubles team of Dave Mohr and Phyl Stallard. Replacing those players while getting production from other starters will be far from a cinch.
“Usually I have strong depth. That’s what usually pulls Grand Island through,” Pray said. “But right now, depth is my question mark.”
In singles, the Vikings return 2012 second-teamer, senior Jake Sweeney and third-teamer, sophomore Eric Riederer. They are set to assume the top two singles roles this season.
Senior Collin McMahon, who played second doubles a year ago, will be looked upon to help the team in first doubles this season. Junior Wyatt Mock could be one of the depth players Pray seeks, as he will push to start at third singles.
Pray noted once the Vikings gain more experience in early-season matches, they can make a push to finish near the top of the NFL again.
“That’s my goal this year, maybe be that team that all of a sudden is right there in the end,” Pray said. “But it’s going to take some hard work.”
Returning a major portion of their team, the Wolverines feature a balanced lineup that head coach Joe Sarkees believes is flying under the radar.
“I love our dark horse label this season,” he said. “We will make some noise.”