By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Nick Andrick and Colbey Ryman have been linked together at Central for four years.
The two senior boys tennis players have not only been friends, but have also had to compete for spots on the team. This year their leadership to the team will be very important on a squad that has high hopes.
"As sophomores they started out at 5 [singles] and 6 [singles] and they played really well," Central coach Andrew Wetzel said. "Last year was a really steep learning curve for them. They had to jump in at 1 [singles] and 2 [singles]. They've gotten better every year and they're senior leaders now, so they're really important to this team, especially with all the new guys I have this year."
Central has five freshmen and one sophomore who are all new to the team, and Wetzel said Andrick and Ryman have been great leaders for the first-year players.
Andrick and Ryman split time last year at No. 1, but they said it didn't matter to them who was at the top spot.
"It's not where your placed, it's how good your team is where your placed," Ryman said.
The Falcons have two other returners from the top six. Sophomore Bobby Loveland and Kyle Ford will help solidify the Falcons at the top of the lineup.
Central also has a strong cast of newcomers who will be battling for the bottom spots in the lineup.
"I think the bottom half of our team is going to be really good, and that's going to win us a lot of matches," Andrick said.
The Falcons won plenty of matches last year, finishing 9-3 and in second place in the Bull Run District.
Central has had a solid program for a number of years, and has been at the top of various districts for the majority of the last 14 years.
Wetzel said it helps the younger players to know that the program has a winning tradition.
"Even the new guys are already confident coming in, because they know they're coming into a good environment," Wetzel said.
One of the keys to any successful team is to have dedication in the offseason.
That's where Andrick and Ryman's leadership once again show up. The pair often play together, and try to get the team together some over the summer to hit together.
"All of us our friends, too, so we'll be hanging out and go play tennis," Ryman said.
Loveland said he also practices some at Winchester Country Club, and mostly Dominion Health and Fitness Club in Front Royal.
With a year of experience at the varsity level under his belt, Loveland said he's ready for a strong season.
"I feel like I have higher goals this season," Loveland said. "We lost a lot of seniors last year and I feel like there's more expected out of me."
The biggest goal for the Falcons is trying to knock off perennial Group A powerhouse George Mason.
The Falcons lost twice to the Mustangs last year. George Mason has won the last three Group A state titles, and has been in the state final eight of the last nine years.
However, the Mustangs lost four of their top six players and the Falcons think this could be their year to pull off the upset.
"I believe our chances are much higher, but it will still be a challenge to beat them," Ryman said.
Wetzel said his team has high goals, and he is hopeful that they can reach them.
"They've talked about [getting to states]. They're not going to be satisfied until they get all the way to states," Wetzel said. "I told them it's going to be a tough task. But they're willing to put the work in, so we'll see what happens."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org