Craig Smith knew his Hopewell tennis team had the experience and talent to be a contender for the I-Meck Conference title and beyond this year.
But what Smith didn't know was how his top six players would blend together as a team.
Three of his top six are veteran tennis players with seniors John David Curlis (No. 1) and Brian Andersen (No. 3) in their fourth year as starters and junior John Armato (No. 4) in his third season as a key player of the Titans.
But the other three starters for the Hopewell squad, seniors Tyler Roberts (No. 2), Danny Wintermeier (No. 5) and Chris Hourihan (No. 6), didn't play organized tennis until their junior years. Smith actively recruited Roberts, Wintermeier and Hourihan to the tennis team after watching their progress in other sports and in the classroom.
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"This year's team has a very interesting dynamic," Smith said. "Everyone in our top six brings something different to the chemistry of our team. As a collective unit they are very tight-knit and they hold each other accountable for work they do on an off the court."
Smith said this team was a "two-year project," that included extensive weight lifting and conditioning year round for all of his players.
Even though some of his guys aren't full-time tennis players, they've all dedicated themselves to the greater good of the team.
The results of that dedication paid off as Hopewell not only won their second consecutive I-Meck title, but also made it further than they ever have in the state dual tournament, advancing to the state quarterfinals.
Hopewell finished its season Wednesday, losing 6-0 to Ardrey Kell in the state quarterfinals.