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Roncalli tennis to feature familiar faces, plus key newcomer

Aberdeen Roncalli boys tennis team coach JD Carrels, far left, talks to his team before practice Monday at the Northern State University tennis courts. The Cavaliers open their season today in a triangular in Harrisburg. Photo by John Davis taken 4/4/2022

The Aberdeen Roncalli will have a unique blend on the tennis courts this season.

The Cavaliers have a group of experienced players coming back from last year and will also be joined by a foreign exchange player this spring.

“A couple of good guys graduated that were a part of our lineup, but the good news is we have a lot of younger guys that have definitely stepped up,” said Roncalli coach JD Carrels. “We had a good amount of guys that put a lot of time in in the off season and it definitely shows in these first couple of weeks of practice.”

A key addition to the squad this year is junior Daniel Gamboa, an exchange student from Mexico. Carrels expects him to be among the team’s top players.

“It will be a super interesting year. We have a foreign exchange student this year,” Carrels said. “He’s turned out to be a pretty good player and he’ll definitely contribute to us on the varsity level.”

Returning players who are expected to play major roles are Mason Carrels, Cason Hellwig and Palmer Johnson.

“Daniel will definitely be in the upper level of our varsity and then we’ll have Mason and Cason who we’ve seen there before, and then Palmer will also be up there,” Carrels said. “In seeds 5, 6, 7 and 8, it’s kind of a toss-up. There’s four guys that are going to be pretty equally matched.”

Those four players are Sawyer Henrich, Gannon May, Landon Zikmund and Ezra Feickert.

Carrels said the big step moving up from junior varsity to varsity will be the mental side of the game.

“They all have the physical ability,” Carrels said, “it will just be how they mentally handle it all.”

Put all the players together and it’s easy to see why Carrels said the Cavaliers will feature plenty of depth, which should help the squad in dual matches this spring.

“I think a big strength we have this year is going to be our depth. One through six we’ll be pretty deep,” Carrels said. “We might not have the absolute star players at one and two, but I think top to bottom one through six, we have a pretty consistent team and I think as far as a dual team goes, I think we’re going to be very solid and I think we’re going to be kind of tough to beat for teams in our division.”

The Cavaliers will open their season at Harrisburg today with matches against Sioux Falls Christian and Harrisburg. Roncalli will have its home opener on Monday by hosting O’Gorman and Brandon Valley at the NSU Courts.

Carrels and the players are excited to get the season underway and see how their new blend works out this spring.

“I’m really looking forward to this season. It’s definitely going to be a good one,” Carrels said. “We have a new, but great group of kids. I’m just excited to get out there and see them play.”

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