Last year’s Falcons team finished in third place but qualified for the NCS playoffs for the first time. Graduating from that team was their best player, Bob Harris, who won the individual league championship. Currently replacing him in the number-one slot is Mark Arroyo, who won his match in three sets against Pittsburg’s Reynell Paragas. “He’s played for four years and been one of the hardest workers we have had on the team,” said Amaro of Arroyo. “He always just aims to be the best he can be.
“This year there’s an exciting energy on the team. They want to do well and are practicing hard. They need more match play to really add success at this level. I think every game is going to be tough. The league is by far the strongest that we have ever had. Pittsburg is playing as well as they have ever played. The rest of the league is not far behind. Antioch is picked to win the league. They are returning the most players and look really solid.”
Meanwhile, “Freedom is developing a new identity,” he said. In addition to Arroyo, some of the standouts this year are Jeff Matteri, who is in the number two slot and “is a tremendous athlete but doesn’t have the tennis experience that Marty has had,” said Amaro. Jake Belarski, who is number three, is also in need of more competitive tennis experience – both he and Matteri haven’t quite played a full year yet. Currently at number four is Matt Ploeg, who “may end up playing anywhere between four and number one,” said Amaro. “There’s a lot of parity with the team right now. That’s what makes this a dangerous team.”
The loss to Pittsburg put Freedom at 0-1 in league play and 0-2 overall. This season’s tough BVAL competition could make it hard for the Falcons to match last year’s third-place finish. Amaro said that if he had to make a prediction right now, he’d guess that Antioch will finish first, Deer Valley and Heritage will fight for second and third and Freedom may come in fifth.