Mean in ’17: Neuner-Derby deliver 1-2 KO punch

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Bobby Neuner’s been a state champ or contender since joining the Wave. Courtesy Darien Athletic Foundation

BOYS TENNIS

Darien hasn’t many returning to the court, but the boys that are back, crack the racket like a whip.

I expect our team to have a lot of depth.

— Tim Derby

“This season our boys’ team has only four returning members, which creates a lot of opportunities for new players — especially underclassmen — to join,” said senior Tim Derby, who with classmate Cooper Murray and junior Bobby Neuner captain the Wave. “So far, after watching tryouts, I’ve been impressed with the level of play I’ve seen from the kids, especially the new freshmen. It is clear that all these kids have been playing in the off-season and working on their game.”

Darien needs the new influx having lost a half dozen to graduation.

Power and potential

“After losing two thirds of our roster last year, the captains and I knew that this season would be a tough one,” Murray said. “My initial thoughts on the season were very mediocre, but after tryouts I really saw potential from the underclassmen.”

Filling a roster, and assessing positions, especially in tennis, has been a trial with weather not cooperating in preseason.

“We’ve so far filled four of our eight openings and three of those four have been freshmen,” said Derby. “Despite losing the majority of our squad from last year, I expect our team to have a lot of depth this year and hope it helps us in our matches.”

The Wave returns the defending Class L champion in Neuner, who began his Darien High career winning his freshman year.

“I’m really looking forward to the upcoming spring season for the tennis team,” Neuner said. “This is Hugh Underhill’s second year as our coach, and I don’t think we could have asked for a more optimistic and supportive leader.”

And the coach has a task considering the turnover.

“This year the team is setting high expectations for ourselves, even though 75% of the players are going to be newcomers,” Neuner said. “We currently have some promising recruits though, with John Lochtefeld, Ian Wise, Romano DiCaprio and Nick Derby already being put on the team.”

“We had a few tough losses last year, but I think some of the matches we lost last year, are going to tilt in our favor,” said Murray. “It’s definitely going to be a competitive year and I’m sure the underclassmen joining us this year can step up to the challenge.”

So, despite seeing a high number go away, Darien still has lots going for it.

“Our returning players are also very strong this year, and are looking to dominate in FCIACs and states,” added Neuner. “Personally I feel very confident coming into this tennis season, as I have been extensively practicing and playing tournaments throughout the past year.”

As go Neuner and Derby, as goes the Wave.

“Teams like Greenwich and Ludlowe suffered much harsher losses than us, and with Tim and Bobby holding the one and two spots in singles I’m confident we’re going to have a successful season and hopefully finish high in the table,” said Murray. “The switch to four singles and three doubles this year is definitely going to help us because we have some strong doubles specialists coming in this year.”

“Overall I’m very excited for the upcoming season, and definitely believe our team has a chance at winning a Class L state title and being one of the top teams in the FCIAC,” Neuner said.

“Coach Underhill has been doing a great job ramping us up as a team for the season with extra conditioning and practices,” said Murray. “So I think we have a real shot at a lot of competitive matches and hopefully a long run in states.”

Schedule

4/3 Greenwich Away 4 p.m.

4/4 Trumbull Home 4:00 p.m.

4/6 Bridgeport Central Home 4:00 p.m. 

4/10 Trinity Catholic Away 4:00 p.m.

4/17 Brien McMahon Home 4:00 p.m.

4/18 Danbury Home 4:00 p.m.

4/20 Stamford Away 4:00 p.m.

4/24 Wilton Away 4:00 p.m.

4/25 Ridgefield Home 4:00 p.m.

4/27 Fairfield Warde Home 4:00 p.m.

5/1 Fairfield Ludlowe Away 4:00 p.m. 

5/2 Staples Home 4:00 p.m.

5/4 New Canaan Away 4:00 p.m.

5/8 St. Joseph Away 4:00 p.m.

5/9 Westhill Home 4:00 p.m.

5/15 Norwalk Away 4:00 p.m.