It’ll be the beginning of a new era with the Wilmington High School tennis team as Doug Cooper returns for his 11th season.
Claire Burns, the all-time wins leader with 110, has graduated. She was a three-time SBAAC Player of the Year and a three-time district qualifier. She also was a state qualifier.
Add to that, Jenna Taylor has graduated and taken her 73 career wins and four first-team All-SBAAC awards with her and the WHS lineup will have a different look in 2022.
On the WHS roster, five letterwinners returning but first team All-SBAAC performer Chandni Sharma is the lone senior. Josie Heys and Addison Kretchek are juniors. The team is top-heavy with sophomores and freshmen as there are 11 in all — sophomores Reagan Henry, Layna Holmes, Cary Holliday, Katelynn Totten, Sophia Castillo, Bailey Wheeler, Sammi Monteith and freshmen Abbie Hubbard, Emma Brooks, Jenna Pletcher and Kiley Comberger.
“I love working with this group of girls,” Cooper said. “They are extremely coachable and they work hard.
“Only one player (Sharma) had a winning record last year. All of the rest of the returning players have to develop a winning attitude this season. Last year as freshmen they were thrown into the deep water, and learned a lot. This season they have to learn to win.”
Cooper said several players on the roster have never played tennis before.
“No one can replace Claire and Jenna,” Cooper said. “We need to focus on individual growth, fundamentals and learning to compete and win. Our goal this season is to lay a foundation for winning tennis over the next few years.”
Cooper said his team can still contend for yet another SBAAC championship — WHS has won four straight titles — if “a couple of our returning players have breakout seasons and if we can assemble some winning combinations on the doubles courts.”
Wilmington played a rigorous non-league slate last season, going just 1-6 but were 9-1 in the SBAAC. Cooper said his program will be buoyed by the return of coach Steve Reed.
“Reed is bringing his experience and 200-plus career wins to the program and is already making an impact with our new players,” Cooper said. “We’re excited to have him back on the courts on a daily basis this season.”