CR boys set to compete for another state tennis title

The Caesar Rodney High boys’ tennis team won its seventh straight Henlopen Conference tournament title on Monday. The members of the squad are, kneeling front row, left to right: Hirsh Patel, David Haynes and Adam Ahern. Back row Cyrus Shanehsaz, Parker Barton, Yash Patel, Rishi Gundakaram, coach Jim Harvey and Gregor Gravelle. (Submitted photo)

The Caesar Rodney High boys’ tennis team won its seventh straight Henlopen Conference tournament title on Monday. The members of the squad are, kneeling front row, left to right: Hirsh Patel, David Haynes and Adam Ahern. Back row Cyrus Shanehsaz, Parker Barton, Yash Patel, Rishi Gundakaram, coach Jim Harvey and Gregor Gravelle. (Submitted photo)

CAMDEN — All this is new to Rishi Gundakaram.

After all, the Caesar Rodney High first-singles players is only a 15-year-old freshman.

But Gundakaram has heard a lot of good things from his teammates about the DIAA tennis state tournament.

Riders freshman Rishi Gundakaram, right, has been playing tennis since he was in second grade. While he’s played his share of tournaments, being in the DIAA state tourney is still different. (Submitted photo/Rexx Williamson)

Riders freshman Rishi Gundakaram, right, has been playing tennis since he was in second grade. While he’s played his share of tournaments, being in the DIAA state tourney is still different. (Submitted photo/Rexx Williamson)

“I heard it’s always fun, just hanging out with the team and then playing matches,” he said. “I think everyone just loves states.”

Of course, the Riders have had more fun than most teams lately in the boys’ state tourney.

CR goes into Friday’s opening day of the event having won or shared four of the last five boys’ team state titles, including the last two.

The first two rounds of the tournament were moved to Friday because of the rain forecast for Saturday. Opening-round matches are slated for 1 p.m.

Senior Parker Barton is a state tournament veteran. He’s made it to the state finals twice while falling in the quarterfinals at first singles a year ago.

“I enjoy it a lot,” Barton said about the tourney. “I’ve been playing tennis my whole life. It’s fun to play with a team and accomplish something.”

Unbeaten at second singles (13-0), Barton goes into the tournament seeded No. 1 in his bracket. Teammates Joseph Gravelle and Adam Ahern are also the top seed at second doubles.

The Riders are seeded on all five courts. That includes Gundakaram (sixth at first singles), David Haynes (second at third singles) and Cyrus Shanehsaz-Yash Patel (second at first doubles).

Caesar Rodney senior Parker Barton, left, is a state tournament veteran. He’s made it to the state finals twice while falling in the quarterfinals at first singles a year ago. (Delaware State News file photo)

Caesar Rodney senior Parker Barton, left, is a state tournament veteran. He’s made it to the state finals twice while falling in the quarterfinals at first singles a year ago. (Delaware State News file photo)

Barton said he’s been playing tennis since he was four years old. That kind of experience pays off for CR’s players when they get to high school.

“Most of the people have been playing since before high school,” said Barton. “It (practice) is most intense this week, the week before states, because we’re getting prepared for a big tournament.”

Gundakaram has been playing tennis since he was in second grade. While he’s played his share of tournaments, being in the DIAA state tourney is still different.

“I think it matters a lot to everyone,” he said about trying to win another state crown. “There’s a lot of tough people this year, lots of competition. But it’s going to be fun.”

Being a senior, this is Barton’s last chance to win an individual state crown. His two appearances in the state finals came at third singles as a freshman and at second singles as a sophomore

This season Barton has battled both shoulder and ankle injuries. But he isn’t going to worry about them this week.

“You’ve got to push through, it’s my last year,” said Barton. “It (winning a state title) would be a big deal for me because I’ve never won individually.

“For the team it’s a big deal, too, because we like to show off in school. It’s pretty big (to hang a state championship banner) because everybody walks by and sees that tennis is up there.”

Notes

Milford senior Colt Williamson, the defending state champion at first singles, is seeded No. 1 in this year’s bracket. (Delaware State News file photo)

Milford senior Colt Williamson, the defending state champion at first singles, is seeded No. 1 in this year’s bracket. (Delaware State News file photo)

Milford senior Colt Williamson, the defending state champion at first singles, is seeded No. 1 in this year’s bracket. He’s trying to become the first downstate boys’ player to repeat as first-singles state champ since CR’s Jared Morris in 2011-12. … In the girls’ tournament, CR has three No. 1 seeds: Natasha Sijan (third singles), Katherine Tamesis-Micaela Thorogood (first doubles) and Chloe Mangubat-Caroline Pangle (second doubles). … Smyrna’s Courtney Markiewicz and Dover’s Richard Duke were named the Henlopen Conference Coaches of the Year in girls’ and boys’ tennis, respectively.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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