St. Anthony has been a powerhouse in tennis over the past few seasons, going 54-2 over the last three springs.
But the Bulldogs return just two seniors, and lost four of their top six singles players.
Led by Cole Buehnerkemper, the question isn’t if the Bulldogs will still be a force to be reckoned with, but how far a young roster can carry the team.
“How good four, five, and six are (will be key),” said coach Joe Reynolds.
Buehnerkemper is the unquestioned top singles player, coming off a stellar 25-2 season in 2012. He won his third sectional championship last year and his second as a singles player, and gave up just two games over four matches en route to that title.
“He can beat anyone in Decatur or Springfield,” Reynolds said. “Cole is one of the top players in southern/central Illinois. Cole has all of the shots as well as a complete all-around game.”
He is joined in his senior class by Jack Fifer, who was 14-1 last year as the Bulldogs’ sixth singles player. Reynolds said the senior could move up to fourth singles to round out the top part of the Bulldog rotation.
Fifer was also solid in doubles, and he finished first in the fourth doubles event at the Champaign Doubles Invitational last season.
To fill the spots in between Buehnerkemper and Fifer, Reynolds is turning to junior Frank Jansen and freshman Jay Niebrugge.
Jansen was 12-1 last season splitting time between fourth and fifth singles. He also has made is mark as a doubles player, going 19-6 last season on his way to his second straight qualification in the IHSA state doubles tournament. He finished third last year and fourth in 2011.
Niebrugge steps into the top half of the singles lineup as a freshman, but Reynolds called him one of the finest freshman in the area.