By Kyle Daubs
Dwight Perry won’t ever talk about riding off into the sunset with a win, but we will.
The longtime girl’s tennis coach completed his final season coaching in the fall. Now, he will close another chapter, which will be his last. Perry has been helped with boys tennis dating back to his head coaching days in the 1980s.
In his 11th season as boys head coach, Joey Boyer is ready to ride one last season with his dear friend.
“From running practices, relating to players, how to progress and evolve as the sport changes,” said Boyer back in the fall. “I think every coach needs to understand this important concept. He made me understand the importance of going to coaching clinics. Offseason programs and running camps are important and how it was important to help grow the program. We’ve been through it all. He’s helped me be the coach I wanted to be.”
Boyer took over the boys program in 2010 with Perry providing help as an assistant coach. After a tumultuous 1-12 season to start, the boys’ program has grown into a contender, even winning a sectional championship in 2017.
With a strong upper-class group, Boyer believes that the team is going to compete for some hardware again. That includes seniors Josh Ramage and Pierce Farmer, as well as juniors Tejas Zala and Ethan Bahney leading a roster of 14 boys.
“I have several guys right now that I see making a strong impact,” said Boyer. “Josh Ramage and Pierce Farmer are seniors that are talented and have previous varsity experience. Ethan Bayhney is probably my most improved player and loves this game. Tejas Zala is my top player. He is a natural on the court, highly competitive with incredible belief in himself. I believe that with hard work and continued dedication, we will compete for Apollo and have a chance to qualify for State. I’m excited to see what we can do.”
On Thursday, Mattoon opened up its season with an 8-1 win over Newton.
“Tejas Zala lost to a very good player Ben Street in a third-set tiebreaker,” said Boyer. “We won in straight sets in all other matches. It was nice to finally see our boys compete after losing out on last year’s season. They were ready and played hard.”
Josia Donaldson, Nik James, Jason Lang, and Ty Easton round out the top eight for now. Boyer said that Matt Carpenter will contend for a varsity spot. As for the rest of the roster, Boyer cited five “exciting” freshmen in Noah Lange, Evan and Lance Chaney, Jackson Mathias, and Hunter Basham.
With the depth of the team, Boyer believes this team could win the Apollo. The Green Wave are the defending conference champions.
“I fully expect us to compete for the Apollo title again,” said Boyer. “We are a solid team that wants to compete and get better. We have a very solid core of juniors and seniors that have matured and played a lot of tennis. Another goal is to develop our young guys with solid fundamentals and some match play experience.”
Along with Perry, 2015 MHS grad Craig Henness is stepping in as a volunteer coach.
“Coach Perry has been such an important part of our tennis program for a very long time,” said Boyer. “Craig Henness has stepped in as a volunteer assistant and will be a great addition to our team this year. Our goals this year are to compete for the Apollo Conference Championship and I have two awesome coaches to help me do that.”