By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Buster Stewart thinks that last year’s troubles are gone and his Gadsden State men’s team is ready to reassume its role as one of the top teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s tennis program.
Only one player – Aaron Triplett – returns for the Cardinals. The remainder of the team includes a transfer and several freshmen.
Triplett played No. 2 singles last year but is now anchored at the top position.
“He’s an even-keeled, good kid whose play reflects his personality,” Ste-wart said. “He’s steady like a rock.”
Hitting in the No.1 hole is Hayden Clowers, a Hoover High graduate.
Nate Moore transfers in from LaGrange (Ga.) College and will play No. 3 singles.
At No. 4 is Jacob Mitchell, who comes courtesy of Rome, Ga.
Gadsden City alumnus Quntel Walker has returned to the tennis scene after sitting out his freshman year. This season, Walker will play in the 5 slot. At No. 6 is former Boaz High player Trey White.
The story could’ve stopped at that point last season because there weren’t any other team members. The Cardinals were done after the top six played.
The situation isn’t the same for 2013.
Jake Croghan, another Boaz alumnus, will “push for playing time,” according to Stewart. “He’ll be a true No. 7.”
Centreville’s Brooks Horsley will give Gadsden State something it hasn’t had in awhile – a left-handed player.
Zack Moss is being red-shirted because of injury.
Gadsden State slipped out of the national top 25 last year, but is back in at No. 21 going into the season.
“That’s probably a fair assessment of where we are right now,” Stewart said. “Our schedule may make the record look ugly, but come April, I think we’re going to beat some people.”
More than half of the Cardinals’ foes are four-year colleges.
“I schedule (four-year schools) because it gives my players a chance to see some really, really good players,” Stewart said. “It also helps get us ready for tournament season and it helps that they see our players.
“You never know who is looking at these kids who want to go on to a four-year school.”