By Blake Spurney
NEWTON – Newton has to replace four state qualifiers on a team that finished fifth in Class 5A at the state tournament.
However, juniors Justin Franz and Otis Musser form the nucleus of the returning players. Franz placed fifth with Jonah Schlongeger last year and Musser placed 12th in singles. This year, Musser and Franz will pair up in doubles.
Musser said his and Franz’s goal was to finish third or higher at state. Franz said he thought the Railers could challenge Salina South for an Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail League title. Both players played as much as they could during the winter months at Riverside Park and they both took lessons over the summer.
Head coach Nick Sisson said next in line for the Railers were Ben Friesen-Guhr, Ethan Neufeld, Gage Marsh, Ethan Tolbert and Simon Koontz. He said he was trying to build off the success the team had last year by getting some players back to state. Newton had all six players go to state last year for the first time since 2012.
“All the guys worked in the summer and some played in the offseason,” he said.
Sisson told his squad of 21 players that most of them would be playing doubles if they wanted to compete in varsity events.
The Railers played Tuesday at the McPherson Invitational and at the Valley Center Invitational.