The Del Norte boys tennis team got its season started with a win on Tuesday, topping Ferndale 7-2 in Crescent City to get off to a 1-0 start in Humboldt-Del Norte matches.
Ferndale only brought five players to Crescent City, forcing the Wildcats to forfeit the No. 6 singles match, and the No. 3 doubles match. The Warriors topped Ferndale in five of the seven matches played.
“For the first match of the year I am very happy,” said Del Norte head coach Jim Holt. “Everybody got to play a little bit of tennis, even though they only brought five players.”
Del Norte got wins out of the No. 2 through No. 5 singles positions. Rylee Weaver won the No. 2 match 6-2, 6-4.
“I think Rylee has really improved a lot since last year,” Holt said. “His forehand and especially his serve are looking really good this year.”
Xavier Young was dominant in No. 3 singles with a 6-1, 6-3 win. John Xiong fell behind with a 6-3 loss in the first set, but bounced back for a pair of 6-4, 6-4 victories for the win.
“John is a senior but it’s his first year playing tennis,” Holt said. “He lost his first set, so I called him to the fence and asked him to really look at his opponent, his weaknesses, and really expose that. He did that, attacking the guy’s backhand a lot.”
Conner Long wrapped up the singles matches with a 6-1, 6-1 win in the No. 5 position.
In doubles, Del Norte’s No. 1 singles player Ricky Khilnani teamed up with Weaver for an impressive 8-2 victory in their doubles match.
“We work in parallel,” Khilnani said. “Sometimes we will hit a deep shot and we will both rush to the net. That is kind of the idea that you want — you want to work together as a team. That is kind of what we did out there. It is the mentality of working together and knowing what your teammate is going to do next, as well as what your opponents will do.”
Khilnani and Weaver were the Warriors’ top doubles team as sophomores in 2016, but Khilnani left the team for his junior year due to academic conflicts with tennis practice. Weaver took Khilnani’s spot at Del Norte’s No. 1 singles player last year in his absence, but Khilnani started the season back in the top singles position.
Although Khilnani suffered a 6-3, 6-3 loss in the No. 1 singles match against Ferndale before coming back for a win in doubles, the senior said it is exciting to to get back on the court.
“It feels good to be part of a team again — to work together, lead practices and help out each other,” Khilnani said. “Then playing these games is really exhilarating. You get that rush, and the adrenaline of trying to beat your opponent and keep your score up. I really enjoy it, and it is fantastic being back on the team for my senior year.”
In Khilnani’s sophomore year, Del Norte only had four boys tennis players and all of them were brand new to varsity tennis. This year, Khilnani joins a team with eight boys on the roster, including four of the Warriors’ top five players from last season.
That has Del Norte excited about its prospects for the season.
“This should be a good year for us because we have four really strong players,” Holt said. “That should give us four strong singles and two strong doubles. I am optimistic about us doing really well in the league this year. We still have Arcata and North Coast Prep to deal with, but we will see how it goes. I was happy with the first match.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .