After stellar junior year, Lewis will lead Joplin tennis team this spring

Joplin’s Garret Lewis returns a volley Tuesday during his doubles match with teammate Gustavo Garcia against the Carthage duo of Thomas Neuenswander and Seth Dixon at Joplin High School. Globe | Laurie Sisk

A year ago, Garret Lewis was a newcomer to prep tennis.

It was definitely hard to tell, as Lewis became arguably the top player in all of Southwest Missouri.

After a stellar junior season, Lewis is once again expected to lead the way for the Joplin High School boys tennis team.

“Garret had an awesome season last year and I expect him to have another good year,” Joplin coach Ed Ingle said. “I think he has a good shot at doing very well at the state tournament.”

Lewis’ first season of high school tennis was one to remember.

After an undefeated regular season, Lewis took fourth at the Class 2 state singles tournament and finished the campaign with a record of 30-2. In doubles, Lewis and the graduated Gustavo Garcia went 26-1.

And with Lewis leading the charge, the Eagles compiled a record of 21-1 in duals last year, with the lone loss coming to eventual state champion Columbia Rock Bridge.

“Last year was amazing,” said Lewis, who has signed to play at Rockhurst University. “It was a really great season for me and I almost got the result I wanted. And our team’s season was phenomenal. Everyone contributed and we had a great group of guys.”

Now, with the arrival of his senior year, Lewis is hoping to go one step further.

“This is my last year, so I want to win a state title in singles,” Lewis said.

Ingle noted Lewis has improved since this time a year ago.

“His serve is better and he’s hitting the ball harder,” Ingle said. “His ground strokes look really good.”

Lewis noted he's put in the time and effort to improve.

“There’s no offseason for me,” Lewis said. “I’ve been playing year-round. I feel like my game has improved in some small areas and I’ve been trying to hit the weight room, too.”

The team’s No. 1 singles player, Lewis isn’t the only Eagle returning with varsity experience.

Senior Nick Mailes and junior Asa Borup also return after having solid seasons a year ago. Ingle said he’s confident both Mailes and Borup are also improved performers.

As a doubles team, Mailes and Borup went 27-4 and took eighth place at the state tournament. This year, doubles teams are not yet set in stone just yet, Ingle said.

Borup will be playing No. 2 singles, while Mailes is slotted in at No. 5 singles.

Playing No. 3 singles will be junior Kaden Seward, while senior Bennett Satterlee will play No. 4 singles and freshman Nolan Hance will occupy the No. 6 singles spot.

Juniors Landon Vowells and Enoch Tufts are two other players who could be in the mix for varsity spots.

Ingle, who has more than 30 athletes on the roster, noted the expectations are set high.

“I think we’re going to have a great season,” Ingle said. “The goals are high. I think we’ll do well in our first year in the Central Ozark Conference.”

The Eagles will travel to Memphis, Tennessee, on March 29-30 for the first meet of the season.

“It’s a round-robin tourney with three high-level teams,” Ingle said. “We’ll see good competition ahead of our regular season schedule. And we’re just excited about the season.”

That’s a statement Lewis would agree with.

“As a team, we want to do better than what we did last year,” Lewis said. “We’ll have to work hard, but I think we can achieve all of our goals. I’m pumped for the season. I’m just ready to get out there and play.”