Photo by Theo Tate
Pictured are members of the Granite City boys’ tennis team (front row, from left) Jeremy Erickson, Joseph Moslander, Nathan Tanthavong, Parker Spalding, Hayden Day, Corey Hackethal and Luke Dilday; (second row, from left) Austin Morgan, KyleTerziovski, Chase Zezoff, Luis Ybarra, Carter Roustio and James Buehler; (third row, from left) Brian Ames, Darin Kukarola, Timothy Bragg, Jack Endicott and Hunter Little; (far back) head coach Raffi Karibian.
After turning in solid seasons with the Granite City boys’ soccer team last fall, Granite City seniors Austin Morgan and Hunter Little are trying out a new sport this spring — tennis.
“They decided this year to come out and we’re really glad to have them,” Granite City boys’ tennis coach Raffi Karibian said.
Morgan and Little will lead a Granite City team that has 18 players; 11 of them are freshmen and sophomores.
“We have good numbers this year,” Karibian said. “We only have two freshmen. We like to have a few more freshmen, but that’s the way it goes. Hopefully, next year, we’ll have a little bit better freshman class as far as numbers to even things out.”
Morgan and Little will look to help the Warriors finish with a winning record in their first seasons with the team. Granite City finished 4-12 overall and 2-5 in Southwestern Conference play a year ago.
The Warriors return four players from last year’s starting lineup – junior Jeremy Erickson and sophomores Carter Roustio, Brian Ames and Hayden Day.
“We lost one player from our starting six last year, Jacob Cross,” Karibian said. “He’s not playing tennis anymore, but he’s attending the University of Illinois. He played No. 1 singles and doubles for us. Obviously, that’s going to be a big loss. But we return the rest of our lineup and I’m excited about that. We also added quite a few new players in the sophomore/junior class and we also have two new freshmen.”
In last fall’s boys’ soccer season, Morgan earned first-team all-Southwestern Conference honors and Little was one of Granite City’s top scorers with three goals. They were also part of a large senior class as the Warriors had 15 seniors on their team.
This spring, Morgan and Little are the only seniors on the Granite City boys’ tennis team.
Juniors Tim Bragg, Darin Kukorola, Luis Ybarra and Chase Zezoff, sophomores Corey Hackethal, Jimmy Buehler, Luke Dilday, Parker Spalding, Nathan Tanthavong and Kyle Terziovski and freshmen Jack Endicott and Joseph Moslander round out the squad.
The Warriors began their season last week with back-to-back road losses to Triad and Greenville. Granite City lost 8-1 to Triad on March 31 and 7-2 to Greenville on April 2.
Against Triad, Erickson picked up the Warriors’ only victory in No. 1 singles. Granite City got wins by Roustio (No. 5 singles) and Hackethal (No. 6 singles) in its match against Greenville.
Karibian said he was happy that his team is starting to play matches after practicing for three weeks.
“We started practice in early March and we’ve been going every day until March 31, which was our first match,” Karibian said. “Obviously, you need that first match to kind of gauge where you’re at for the season and what you need to improve on. I’ve got a young team, mostly sophomores and juniors, and we’ll show steady improvement throughout the year. You need that match play to figure out where you’re at and where you want to be.”
The Warriors were scheduled to start their Southwestern Conference season on Tuesday against Belleville East at Granite City. Last year, Granite City beat Collinsville and East St. Louis in league play.
“Obviously, our conference is very strong every year,” Karibian said. “Edwardsville and Belleville East are two of the top teams in the state of Illinois. O’Fallon, Alton and Belleville West will be extremely tough as well this year. After that, us, Collinsville and East St. Louis were fighting to improve and get better to get to the top half of the conference.”
Karibian is in his 10th season as Granite City head coach. A 1991 Granite City graduate, Karibian took over head coaching duties in 2006 after nine years as assistant coach to Al Lobdell, who headed the team for 19 seasons before retiring.