Laker tennis teeming with youth |

Laker tennis teeming with youth

Alex Close/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe senior Matt Isbell serves during practice earlier this week. Isbell and fellow senior Tyler Turpin will make up the Lakers' No. 1 doubles team.

After a couple years of struggling to put together a full roster, the North Tahoe boys tennis program looks to be building back up to a competitive level.

Laker head coach Dean Headley, who has returned to lead the team after a long hiatus, is hopeful for the future.

And with five freshman on the nine-man roster, Headley has good reason to hope.

For now, the Lakers are in a rebuilding year, with a majority of the squad having never played tennis until about two or three weeks ago.

North Tahoe’s No. 1 singles player is junior Ian Hughes, a transfer this year from the Bay Area, where he played extensively and is a seasoned tournament player.

“He will hold his own against Reno players,” Headley said.

Headley will also lean on his freshman son Eliot Headley, the No. 2 singles player, and seniors Matt Isbell and Tyler Turpin, who make up the Lakers’ No. 1 doubles team.

With so much of the team having such little experience in the sport, Greg Felisch, who is acting as an assistant coach and also is the tennis pro at Dollar Hill, where the Lakers have been practicing, has been an incredible help to Headley and the North Tahoe program.

Headley has an extensive tennis background, playing high school and college tennis and working as a resident pro on Dollar Hill in the 1970s. He also served as North Tahoe’s tennis coach five or six years ago. In addition to currently working as a tennis pro, Felisch also is a North Tahoe graduate.

When North Tahoe High School opened up, Felisch was a junior and a Tahoe City resident. He spent his final two years playing tennis for the Lakers.

“Our kids are getting better instruction than most other teams, thanks largely to Greg,” Headley said.

While the experience of the coaching staff might not be mirrored by the experience of the players, Headley said that his boys’ athleticism is a huge boon to the potential of the team.

“We have good athletes who are improving rapidly,” Headley said.

So while the coach has no delusions of grandeur for his first season beyond the joy of watching his players improve and build a love for what he calls a “life sport,” Headley watches his young team and is optimistic about the future.

“With five freshman, give us a couple years,” Headley said. “We’ll be a factor in the league.”

The fact that North Tahoe competes in the league in which it does is unique, as the 2A Lakers are mixed in with 3A and even 4A programs, which often boast nearly 2,000 students.

Despite competing against programs that get 30 or 35 athletes who try out, based on the potential he sees in early days of this season, Headley is hopeful he can build up a competitive program once again.

“They’re making great strides,” he said.

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