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Golden Eagles to feature depth this tennis season

Aberdeen Central boys' tennis coach Trent Kurtz, center, talks to his players as they warm up prior to practice Tuesday at the Holgate Tennis Courts. Central starts its season today in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 3/22/2022

On paper, the Aberdeen Central boys’ tennis team has just two starters back from its top six singles lineup from a year ago. However, that only tells part of the story.

The Golden Eagles, who start their season today at Rapid City Christian, have plenty of talent waiting in the wings which includes a transfer from Aberdeen Roncalli, another player who saw varsity action last season, and an upcoming seventh-grader who will make a major impact.

Seniors Gabe Goetz and Ian Ahlberg will lead the squad, but Central coach Trent Kurtz also feels confident in the group of players behind them.

“If you would have asked me a month ago what our strength was I would have said our play up top with Gabe and Ian, just those two being the only two I was comfortable with that I’ve seen kind of through the battles,” Kurtz said. “But now I think our depth is definitely probably our strength. We’ve got eight guys that could have very successful seasons in one of those varsity spots, so it’s going to be really tough to figure out which six of those get to play by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe we mix in different guys in doubles, I don’t know. But there’s definitely eight guys that I think could be very successful varsity players.”

Central has roughly 40 players out for the sport this spring.

Goetz will once again be the team’s top player. He finished fourth at the Eastern South Dakota Conference Tournament last year at number one singles.

“I’m really looking forward to his senior year. He’s obviously a really good tennis player, but also a really good leader,” Kurtz said. “We know he can score some points for us up top. He‘s going to be competitive in a lot of his matches, but the leadership he brings to practice every day will be extremely important.”

Kurtz is also expecting major contributions from Ahlberg who will bump up one spot from third to two in the singles lineup and then team with Goetz to form the number one doubles team.

“Definitely we’re counting on big things from those two guys,” Kurtz said. “We expect them to be our leaders. They’ve been through it all before.”

That’s where things begin to get interesting. Central has a group of individuals who bring a variety of experiences to the court.

Mitchell Hofer joins the varsity and will be playing third as a seventh-grader.

“He doesn’t have the varsity experience, but he’s been all over the area playing in tournaments this off season, so he’s played some top-level competition all winter long,” Kurtz said. “Not varsity experience, but he’s got some big-time experience there too.”

AJ Prehn will play number four in the singles lineup after transferring from Aberdeen Roncalli.

“AJ played five for Roncalli last year, so he knows the business of it,” Kurtz said. “I really like how he competes. I liked watching him last year and then really enjoy having him on our squad.”

Sekoe Gogue is no stranger to varsity tennis either.

“He started the year varsity doubles last year and then he also was an alternate in some singles,” Kurtz said.

Gogue is currently coming off an injury, but will likely make a big impact.

“We expect big things from him when he can get back,” Kurtz said.

Other players expected to compete for varsity spots include Jack Riggs, Taye Ciundiff and Michael Frohling.

While Kurtz has his top four singles and top two doubles positions set for the opening weekend of action, he said that figuring out the best doubles teams is going to be a bit of challenge.

“That’s kind of one of my biggest concerns right now. We’ve got lots of different options,” Kurtz said. “I really feel comfortable playing eight guys, whether that’s singles or doubles. We’ve got different doubles combinations we can play.”

Central will play five times in Rapid City through Saturday, taking on Rapid City Stevens and Spearfish on Friday, and Rapid City Central and St. Thomas More on Saturday.

Often times Central hasn’t even been able to get in challenge matches before heading west to start the season because of the weather, but that has not been the case this year.

“It’s been nice being able to be outside for a week and half before going out there, so we’re more ready than we have been, I think,” Kurtz said. “But we’re playing some good competition out there.”

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