(Clarinda) -- The Clarinda boys tennis team is living up to their preseason expectations. The Cardinals are a perfect and dominant 6-0 to this point.
“We’ve got off to a great start,” Coach Matt Bird told KMA Sports. “We’ve been playing well, and we seem to be getting a little better as we go.”
That’s the most impressive and promising aspect of this year’s Cardinals. Even while they’re loaded with veterans, the group continues to improve.
“The progression is going how we’d like it to,” Bird added. “We’re playing well, but we really think we can play better.”
The Cardinals return all seven of their varsity contributors from last year, and other than a few tweaks in the lineup, the group that went 5-4 in 2018 is completely intact.
“We’re very fortunate,” Bird said. “All are juniors and seniors in the top seven, so the experience is definitely there for us.”
Senior JD Hitt (3-3 record) is at No. 1 while classmate Brady Williams (6-0), junior Kory Rogers (5-1) and senior Owen Smith (6-0) have just one loss combined between 2, 3 and 4.
“(JD) is a grinder and just a good kid to have at the top of the lineup,” Bird said. “He provides a lot of leadership with his work ethic and great attitude. (Brady) has had a fantastic season and been all over the place in singles and doubles. He’s shown a ton of growth from last season.
“(Kory) has played very well this year. He’s played a lot of tennis and some of his best play came against Atlantic (last week). (Owen) is a steady guy in the middle of the lineup with a lot of success at 5 last year. He has a good work ethic and just shows up and goes about his business.”
Senior Alex Best and junior Connor Brown are both 5-1 on the season at Nos. 5 and 6.
“(Alex’s) ground strokes have gotten better this season to compliment his height and his serve and net play,” Bird said. “Connor is a second-year guy that has shown a lot of growth from last year and even this season from March to now.”
But the singles is just the beginning of the consistently successful play for this Cardinals team. With the combos of Best and Williams at No. 1, Hitt and Rogers at No. 2 and Brown and Smith at No. 3, Clarinda is a perfect 18-0 in doubles play.
“Doubles have been great for us,” Bird said. “I like our doubles lineups a lot. It’s the same combos that we ended with last year, and they’ve all learned to communicate and move. That’s something we’re going to work on as we move forward, but they’re all doing a great job in doubles.”
Clarinda will be back in action tonight against Red Oak before a meeting with Harlan on Thursday. Listen to the complete interview with Coach Bird below.