"We used to have 15 on the team, but it just kept going down," said freshman Rob Hacker, one of those who'll be back next season. "The interest has dropped a little, but hopefully we can build it back up."
Team led by seniors Noland, Kolasa
The current team is led by seniors Craig Noland and Justin Kolasa, who will team to form Lincoln's top doubles entry at next week's 9th Region Tournament.
Noland lost singles and doubles matches Tuesday at Harrodsburg. He fell to Robbie Merriman in singles play, and he and David Houston lost a doubles match to Merriman and Travis White. (Kolasa did not attend the match.)
Noland has been with the team only three years, but he has worked his way up the ladder in that time to become the team's No. 1 singles player.
He won two matches in the singles draw at last year's regional, but he agreed to team with Kolasa in the doubles bracket this year when Kolasa lost his doubles partner from last season.
"Justin kind of wanted to play doubles with him," Mingo said. "Craig might have wanted to play singles, but he agreed to play with Justin. That's the kind of kid he is."
Noland is not an outgoing or outspoken player, but Mingo said he has set a good example for the Patriots' younger players.
"I've had some players who were really outgoing, but they might throw their racket on the court," Mingo said. "Craig has probably exemplified the best sportsmanship I've had in several years."
Tennis is family tradition for Noland
Tennis is a family tradition for Noland. Two of his uncles, Jerry and Gip Noland, played competitively, and he credits his parents, who are recreational players, with piquing his interest in the game.
"I thought it'd be fun," he said. "It's non-stop action."
Noland said he hopes to make his final season last as long as possible next weekend.
"Since we're not seeded, it'll probably be a tough draw," he said.
Things could be tough for Lincoln next season, too, but the two returnees, Hacker and seventh-grader Matt Beard, hope they can find some reinforcements.
"There's some people who want to play," Beard said.
They'll have the chance to play on nearly new courts, as the Lincoln courts are scheduled to be resurfaced in the coming weeks.
"I'm hoping that might help the interest," Mingo said.
Beard and Hacker will become the veterans on the team, and Mingo said he's hoping the two will work on their games often in the coming months.
"They've both got a lot of potential," Mingo said. "If both guys play through the summer and work hard, they'll be a good nucleus for us."
At Harrodsburg 7, Lincoln County 0
No. 1 - Robbie Merriman def. Craig Noland 8-4; No. 2 - Travis White def. David Houston 8-4; No. 3 - Jared Holt def. Rob Hacker 8-4; No. 4 - Daarik Gray def. Matt Beard 8-1; No. 5 - Gus Parks def. Julian Burdette 8-0.
No. 1 - Merriman-White def. Noland-Houston 8-2; No. 2 - Parks-Jeremy Kwiek def. Beard-Hacker 8-6.