McNary’s Nick Kiuttu sends a forehand shot back across the net. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s boys varsity tennis team lost a lot of players to graduation last year, but the team’s head coach has quite a bit of faith in one of his returners.

“Trevor Braun is back as a junior playing No. 1 singles and he’s one of the best players in the league if he continues improving,” said Marc McAvoy, McNary coach.

Braun ended his 2010 season one match away from the state tournament and is hoping to leap over that hurdle this season.

“Right now, I just want to win, but I’d like to make state,” he said.

He’d like to see the team take a step forward from tying for fifth place in the Central Valley Conference last year.

“We’ve got to get down the basic fundamentals of keeping the ball in. When we’re playing teams like Canby, they have a lot of people who can keep the ball in and we want to be right there with them,” he said.

Nick Kiuttu will likely fill in the boys No. 2 singles slot after taking over the role last year.

“I just want to improve overall, I’m not sure I’d be able to make it to state, but I’d like to have that goal in the back of my mind,” he said.

The boys were scheduled to take on Central High School Tuesday, March 15, but heavy rains resulted in a cancellation giving them at least another day to sharpen up their skills. McAvoy lamented the shortened preseason practice window dictated by the Oregon School Activities Association this year.

“It’s a challenge because the kids are just getting their arms back and we don’t have many club players, but we’ve got some kids that are willing to listen and be coachable and develop as quickly as possible,” he said.

Kiuttu hoped the team would focus on a big-picture take on the game as the season got underway and ramped up to league play.

“All of us need to know how the game works and we get strategies  down and timing for when to come to the net. If we do that, we could win some games,” he said.

Beyond the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots, McAvoy was still uncertain how the roster would shake out, but he was looking to the team’s strengths to reveal themselves as the season progresses.

Weather-permitting, McNary faced Canby High School Thursday past press time. They’ll square off with Sprague High School on the road Thursday, March 31.