14 Iowa Conference team titles
2014-15 record: 8-9
2015 Iowa Conference finish: 3rd (5-2)
Starters returning: 3 (West Adelman, Tom Palmer, Garrett Taylor)
Starters lost: 3 (Josh Forst, Tim Kahl, Collin Schares)
Letterwinners lost/returning: 3/8
Iowa Conference team titles:16 (most recently, 2000)
Back for his second season, coach Ryun Ferrell will lean on his senior leader in guiding a youthful Central College men’s tennis team towards the top of the Iowa Conference.
The Dutch return eight letterwinners from a year ago, but that still doesn’t translate to a high experience level. Outside of senior West Adelman, seven of those eight returners were first-year players.
“I think overall we’re more talented this year than we’ve been in a while,” Ferrell said. “But we’re still just very young.”
The team will rely heavily on the leadership of Adelman, something he’s developed over the summers preparing for his future career in the United States Marine Corps.
“The leadership of the team comes from West first and foremost,” he said. “He’s the alpha male of the team. He’s such a different person than any other college athlete you’ll ever see. There’s a responsibility placed upon him that not many people will ever truly understand.”
A large contingent of sophomores will need to step up for the Dutch to advance up the conference ladder.
“Those guys are the core of the team right now,” Ferrell said. “They’re the ones that are going to be filling the majority of the spots. They need to take ownership of the program and run with it.”
Adelman has been atop the Dutch lineup for almost all of his four years at Central. A three-time all-conference selection, Adelman went 9-5 a year ago and is aiming higher in 2016.
“West has got a shot at being the best player in the league this spring,” he said. “His skill set is amazing. He’s got a big serve and a big forehand. I’m excited about what this final season will bring.”
Beyond Adelman, the rest of the lineup is still murky at this point according to Ferrell. Sophomore Garrett Taylor went 6-9 at No. 5 singles in 2015 and is gunning for the No. 2 spot.
“Garrett works very hard and I believe he’s going to play No. 1 at some point in his career,” he said. “He always gets the ball back across the net and drives his opponent nuts.”
Tom Palmer was 5-7 at No. 6 singles last spring but Ferrell has higher expectations.
“I’d like to see Tom step it up a notch,” Ferrell said. “When you see him play he looks cautious, almost tentative. I’d like to see him draw a line in the sand and say ‘I’m here, what are you going to do?’
Jimmy Cunningham was primarily a doubles player as a freshman, going 7-10 at the No. 3 spot. Cunningham earned honorable mention all-conference in 2015.
“I think he’ll contribute a lot this year,” Ferrell said. “He could easily play both singles and doubles.”
Sophomore Jacob Logan will use his tennis knowledge to improve upon last year’s 1-6 singles record.
“He is the guru,” Ferrell said. “He knows more about this sport than anybody. I’m looking forward to what he’s going to bring because he’s improved a ton already since he got back in the fall.”
Another sophomore who excels in doubles, C.J. Cliff, will look to make to a splash this spring. Cliff has a career record of 4-5 in both singles and doubles play.
“C.J. loves doubles more than anything.” Ferrell said. “The doubles court makes so much sense to him. He’s going to improve throughout the entire spring.”
Junior Alex Anderson and sophomore Scott Wilson have limited experience and will have to play catch-up to earn playing time. Anderson joined the Dutch last season, but studied abroad in the fall. Wilson came aboard at semester break last year.
“Alex wears his heart on his sleeve,” Ferrell said. “To him, the program is more important than the individual. Scott had a good fall season and is our most improved player."
All five members of a talented freshman class will vie to insert themselves in the lineup as well.
“We have some quality players in our freshman class,” Ferrell said. “They’re definitely going to get to see some playing time this year.”
Heading into his second season at the helm for Central, Ferrell is once again joined by former Dutch women’s player Jordan Langer. A December 2014 graduate and four-year letterwinner. Langer has been on staff since last January.
“She’s a good sounding board for me,” Ferrell said. “She helps even me out a little bit, too.”
All six of Central’s outdoor courts, located to the west of H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse, were resurfaced this offseason and now feature a bright red paint job.
“There’s not a single facility in the league that looks like ours now,” Ferrell said. “When people come here they’ll remember that we have the red courts.”
In addition to the six outdoor courts, the Dutch also have access to four indoor courts inside H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse.
“Being a part of a college that has access to indoor and outdoor courts is a huge competitive advantage for our athletes to have the opportunity to train year-round,” Ferrell said.
A non-conference schedule that features 13 matches, including nine on the road, will test the Dutch early in the season. Ferrell noted matches against Gustavus Adolphus (Minn.) and Baker (Kan.) as especially tough.
“You only get better by playing better teams,” Ferrell said. “We’re young and we need to be thumped a little bit.”
The conference slate for Central will start April 7 at Wartburg. Central will host league favorite Coe on April 13. Ferrell thinks the Dutch can join Wartburg and Luther as contenders.
“Coe’s going to the best by far,” Ferrell said. “They lost some talent, but on paper they brought in players better than what they lost. Luther is probably the second-best team, but they lost a lot of people as well.”
The 2016 season opens Saturday with a 5 p.m. home match against St. Ambrose.