Byline: Jim Wojciechowski Daily Herald Sports Writer
Considering the remarkable success of the program, it may seem like Crystal Lake South boys tennis coach Don Nead simply posts notice of the first day of practice and the rest falls into place.
"Every one of them you had different problems," said Nead of the Gators' 12 Fox Valley Conference champions.
For instance, "One year we had two players returning. I went to my first practice and I looked at the group and, boy, there was so much inexperience there I went right down and invited four or five (sophomores) to come up and give us more depth."
Lo and behold, they helped lead South to a conference title. And then another.
"These are the ones I invited up," said Nead, referring to the seniors playing before him.
That group of Gators is aiming for its third consecutive FVC championship this weekend. South enters with a commanding 6-point lead over Cary-Grove.
South, which isn't blessed with any true standouts but instead relies on depth, capped a 7-0 conference record with a shutout victory over Crystal Lake Central earlier this week. It raised the Gators' overall record to 15-0, marking the third time in Nead's 28-year career his team finished the season undefeated.
"This is a great team to work with," Nead said. "Every kid on the team has got a real nice personality. They're very good students. As a team, they have about an A-minus, B-plus average."
Boosting that average is senior doubles player Josh Waldenmyer, class valedictorian, who boasts a 4.49 grade point average. He returned from Washington D.C. last Tuesday in time to face Central after competing in the National Science Bowl.
Waldenmyer can play a little tennis, too. He and partner David Pitluck (ranked 13th in the junior class) have a posted a 3-0 record at No. 1 and a 2-1 mark at No. 2.
They've shared the Gators' top spot with senior John Weaver and junior Ryan Mitchell, who improved to 4-0 at No. 1 with a straight-sets win over Central. They also were runners-up at the Crystal Lake South invite.
"Early in the season my (Nos.) 1 and 2 doubles kept beating each other," said Nead, whose top teams are paired together for the first time. "... We've had a lot of challenges between them and right now the challenges stand at 3-2.
"They're that close."
"We challenged every single practice," Weaver said. "This is the most challenges, like in practice, we've had ever. ... We were halfway through the season and we still didn't know what our lineup was going to be.
"We have a real well-rounded team."
"We could have played third (doubles)," Mitchell pointed out.
That position happens to be occuppied by seniors Jim Blundy and Ryan Mason, who were state qualifiers last year. They were 3-0 in that spot in FVC play.
Seniors Matt Trummel and Ryan Dirksen were 3-0 at fourth doubles in the conference.
"I've got three or four kids not playing that would start on most teams in our conference," Nead said.
The singles lineup has been more stable: seniors Vishal Oza, Gavin Oiler and George Johnson at Nos. …