Editor’s note: Over the coming days, the CDT will be previewing spring sports teams for Centre County high schools
After a PIAA playoff berth last season, State College boys’ tennis coach Jane Borden has designs on a return. The reigning District 6 champion brings back key players at the top of the lineup, but is also trying to incorporate a large influx of youth. Borden, who carried 37 players last year, has 41 on this season’s roster.
“They are a very talented group, but they are still really young,” Borden said. “I’m not sure they realize yet what they are capable of.”
Matt Wherley returns at No. 1 in singles for the Little Lions, while Nick Vanden moves up to No. 2. The squad also boasts key returnees Fernando Del Castillo, Matt Bristol, Terrence Li and Garrett Schoonmaker. Del Castillo, who played a big role in doubles last season, moves to No. 3 singles while Bristol returns to the doubles lineup. Wherley, a returning PIAA qualifier, has earned praise from his coach for his work off the court.
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“Matt is a bit stronger, faster and a lot wiser this year,” Borden said. “He’s always been a smart, focused player, but this year he’s already at the next level. He knows what to expect this season at No. 1.”
Newcomer Owen Lloyd has already made an impact for the team at No. 1 doubles. In Monday’s 5-0 win over Mechanicsburg, Lloyd teamed with Li to pick up their first win of the season. Borden tagged Lloyd’s maturity as a key reason for his improvement. The skills were there. The strategy soon followed.
“Owen has worked incredibly hard the past few years,” Borden said. “He has grown tremendously in the mental aspect of the game.”
Despite a perfect 6-0 Mid Penn Conference record last season, Borden isn’t taking the competition lightly. The Little Lions are set to face the likes of Hershey, Cumberland Valley and Lower Dauphin, who went a combined 16-2 in conference play last year.