Ismael Dutchover is the only coach that the Goose Creek Memorial tennis program has ever known.
Since taking over when the school opened in 2008 he has seen plenty of ups and downs and coming off a 2018 team tennis campaign that saw the Patriots go 5-3 overall and 4-2 in District 22-5A play and a bi-district round loss to Barbers Hill, the squad has plenty to look forward to.
Dutchover has three returning boys from last year, including his top two members Nikko Lagrada and Abraham Montoya while four girls, notably top two players Anna Keyes and Kayla Truong, are ready to return to the courts for GCM.
GCM opens up 4 p.m. today at home against La Porte.
“On the boys side, we have two very good players at the top two spots,” Dutchover said. “They are both seniors, have a lot of experience under their belts and their experience and leadership will play a big role in getting the younger players up to speed.
“The same can be said for the girls side. The top two girls, also seniors will be critical in getting the sophomore girls comfortable with playing team tennis style of play. Many of them will be playing team tennis for the first time, so it will be up to the veterans to lead by example and be patient with the younger players and help them with their development.”
Dutchover’s main concern is a lack of depth with the loss of a chunk of graduated seniors and other lost to other commitments.
“Not having those players on the court will definitely hurt,” Dutchover said. “The younger sophomores and perhaps a few Freshman will have to fill in those gaps and grow up real quick. I have confidence that they will be able to do that.”
Dutchover notes Hector Gonzalez and Lilly Cisneros has two up-and-comers that could help immediately.
“Hector is such a hard worker, has a very competitive spirit to him and always doing what he can to make himself a better player,” Dutchover said. “Lilly is highly competitive and is on a steady incline in improving her tennis game.”
If all comes together, the Patriots should be a playoff team once again.
“The biggest key will be how quick the younger and less experienced players can get up to speed and adjust to the aspects of team tennis play,” Dutchover said. “If they can adjust quickly, and experience some success early on, I think this can be a successful season.”