Lack of boys ends tennis at WLC
Not many have answered that call at Wilton-Lyndenborough Middle High School.
A few years ago, the Warriors boys tennis team had an alum, Keith Bujak, playing at the next level – first at Franklin Pierce University, then at Elmira College.
That was seen as a pretty good accomplishment for the sport locally,as its been rare for locals to be playing tennis in college.
Fast forward to today, and for Wilton-Lyndeborough, there is no Warriors boys tennis team. At least not for this upcoming season.
It isn’t a shock to those close to the program, especially head coach Fran Bujak and Warriors atheltic director/former coach Brice Miller. Wilton only had six players on last year’s team, and five of them graduated. One year later, the Warriors weren’t able to make up that difference.
“Unfortunately, all but one of last year’s team graduated,” Bujak said in an email. “Sadly, there was not enough new interest to field a team this year. Hopefully, we can be back on the courts next year.”
“It’s heartbreaking for me, because I used to coach the team,” Miller said.
“We had just six guys last year, five were seniors, so we kind of knew this might happen. We don’t have a feeder program, don’t have a middle school team, so we knew we might have trouble.”
Miller said two or three eighth graders expressed interest, and Bujak may possibly work with them after the girls – yes, the Warriors will field a girls tennis team – are done with practice or home matches.
“He’s been great,” Miller said of Bujak. “There’s a decent group of eighth graders. Maybe they can get there friends interested and we can go from there so we can field a team next year.”
Miller coached the Warriors early this decade, the last time in 2011 before he needed to devote more time to his AD duties.
A Division IV school in most sports, Wilton-Lyndeborough has an enrollment well below 200, and this is the second sport the school has had to not participate in this school year.
Wilton was not able to field a girls varsity volleyball team this past fall. They didn’t have a girls JV basketball team this past winter, with most of the players very young.
“Interest in athletics has been down here across the board,” Miller said. Our junior class has just 30 kids. As the AD, I want to see these kids in school involved in athletics. But being in a small school, it’s tough.”
Miller, when he was the coach, did a lot of hallway and cafeteria recruiting. He said he would know of a student who would play a sport in fall or winter but noticed he wasn’t doing anything in the spring and try to entice him to play tennis. And as the AD he does the same for other sports.
“That’s how I built up the program when I was coaching at the time,” he said, “We tried to do it this year, talk to the seventh and eighth graders and at least get enough to get through the year. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough interest, and I didn’t want to wait until the last minute.”
That, he said, would have inconvenienced other schools in terms of scheduling, etc. Boys and girls tennis are grouped in three divisions, not four, and Miller said that in the lowest grouping, Division III, there are only five schools playing boys tennis that are normally in Division IV for most other sports.
“If you don’t have a feeder program, it’s hard,” Miller said. “You have to convince them sometimes, let them know that tennis is one of those lifelong sports. I try to express that to the kids. I even teach a racquet sports class at the school.”
In any event, Miller will try to guide the athletic program through this latest speed bump.
“It comes in waves,” he said. “In some years, we’ve had (tennis) teams of 13 players. Other years (like last season), we’ve had just six. We’re just in one of those lulls right now.”
One major coaching vacancy down, another one to go for Campebell High School. The Cougars finally found themselves a varsity head baseball coach in Jim Cardello; now they need to find a head football coach to replace Greg Gush, who stepped down around the holidays.
According to Athletic Director assistant Dawn Miller, the job has not been officially posted as of yet on the Litchfield School District web site, thus the search isn’t in full swing as of yet. The athletic department, she said, is waiting for the go-ahead from human resources. However, the job is posted on the NHIAA web site’s bulletin board, so you can be sure AD Jarod Mills has gotten inquiries and will have someplace to start from when the job officially opens up.
Warmer weather due by mid to late week will be good news for athletic directors. Miller said that two of Wilton-Lyndeborough’s tennis courts are clear, which means things are progressing. The high school tennis season is set to start next Monday, Apr. 2.
“I’m an optimist,” Miller said. “If I had to say right now, I’d say we’d (the Warrior girls) be able to play Monday.”
The winter tournament season is just 10 days in the books, so now we look ahead to the spring tourney season. Baseball and softball begin their tournaments in all divisions on May 30 (softball) and May 31 (baseball). All softball finals are on June 9, while once again baseball splits theirs up at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Division III and IV will be once again on that finals Saturday, June 9, at 10 a.m. (III) and 1 p.m. (IV). Divisions I and II will be at 4 and 7 p.m., respectively, on Monday, June 11.
In one change, the girls lacrosse finals will not be at Southern New Hampshire University this season. Instead they will be at Manchester Memorial High School. There’s a Division II-III doubleheader on Tuesday, June 5 (II at 5 p.m., III at 7 p.m.) and the Division I title game is Wednesday, June 6 at 7 p.m.
Locally, Stellos Stadium will serve as the site for the boys and girls Division II semifinals only; girls on Saturday, June 2 at 5 and 7 p.m., and the boys on Wednesday, June 6 at 5 and 7:15 p.m.
As for Holman Stadium, once again it is earmarked for the Division I baseball semis on Wednesday, June 6 at 4 and 7 p.m. Last year, if you remember, the semis were rained out and Holman wasn’t available thereafter, so they were eventually played on a Friday at SNHU.
Speaking of SNHU, it will continue to host the Division I and II softball semis and finals. The I and II finals have flip-flopped this year, with the Division I title game being the prime time game at 7 p.m. and II being played at 4:30. Last year it was the opposite.