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The boys tennis team at St. Michael’s presents double trouble for its opponents.
The Horsemen’s three doubles teams have lost exactly zero matches in this condensed and modified season.
“It’s something that is near and dear to my heart,” St. Mike’s coach Drew McDermott said of doubles play. “I have a good understanding of how to play that. We’re really good at doubles. We’ve been working with these kids on doubles because it’s a hard thing for kids to learn how to play.”
After rolling through the season a combined 29-0 in double matches, the Horsemen have come to enjoy getting off to 3-0 lead in their matches.
“We spend a lot of time on teaching them about poaching, how to defense it, how to serve and when to serve and how to handle all of those different situations,” McDermott said. “We have a lot of drills to emphasize all of that. We expect them to play the way they practice and the kids have been very good about doing that.”
That’s something the Horsemen look to continue when they get into the state tournament next week, when traditional heavyweight teams like Albuquerque Academy, New Mexico Military Institute, Lovington and Los Alamos, whom St. Michael’s just beat this week, will be waiting to try and deprive the school of its first boys team tennis championship.
“I think it’s paramount to our success,” McDermott said of getting that quick jump. “Typically when we start a match with doubles, if you can win those, only have to win just two singles matches to win the match. It gives the kids an opportunity to warm up and see their opponents a little bit.”
As for the players, they have certainly bought into the practice.
“Our doubles teams are so good because we’ve been coached in a lot of I formations, and practiced against a lot of different looks,” said team captain and senior Evan Bloodworth. “We’re counting on the doubles points for every victory. In a big match, it takes a lot of the pressure off. It gives us momentum going into singles and gives us the confidence that we can get at least two singles wins and take the match.”
It is a primary focus for the team, said the coach’s son, junior Wade McDermott.
“At practice, it mainly consists of a lot of doubles play,” he said. “Our coach, he’s a very high-level doubles player. He had a lot of experience and is very good at teaching us what we need to do.”
The younger McDermott, who teams with Bloodworth on the Horsemen’s top doubles duo, said he uses many of the doubles stratagems in his singles play.
“You can use volleys in double and singles and a bunch of other things,” he said. “In doubles, you keep moving forward and you can apply that into singles, as well.”
Sophomore Kameron Dunmar, who the coach said could be competing for individual singles championships by next season, is with Ianandra Komis on the second team, while Chris Esquibel and Jaxen Bujold form the third team.
The tennis program at St. Mike’s underwent a transformation last season as the boys and girls combined in an effort to give all of the players access to more coaching, coach McDermott said. That’s been a benefit to both the boys and the girls.
“One of the things I attribute our success to is in multiple voices. Having four coaches saying four things different ways really helps,” he said. “It’s not unique, and it allows us just to get a critical mass at practice. Tennis is a tough game. It can be so lonely, brutal. This has done so much for the morale of the players and we can draw on more resources for coaching.”