Iron Horse boys’ tennis builds towards the future

It’s on the side of the Philip Simmons High School boys’ tennis team. 
The Iron Horses made a deep playoff run and reached the state semifinals last spring before losing to eventual Class AAA state champ Camden.
The team might not have as lofty goals in the spring of 2024 because this squad is extremely young even for tennis standards. The team has four players who are at least 6-foot-3 and are just learning/growing into their bodies. Some won’t be driving a car for a few years.
“This will be a tremendous team next year,” Philip Simmons coach Richard Schulz said. “This year, it will be about getting better. You won’t recognize this team by the end of the year.”
Schulz knows all the fine points of building a tennis team. He, after all, built the Iron Horse program from scratch to state champ caliber in just six years.
He coached a girls’ team to a state title and guided the boys’ team on a three-year run as state champs.
Again, the 14-man roster includes youth sprinkled throughout, and especially at the top. No. 1 singles player Addison Stuart is a freshman while No. 2 singles player is junior Matt Esse. He began last season at No. 4.
The No. 3 singles player Henry Broad is showing college potential despite being only an eighth grader. The No. 4 player, Ryan Kriza, is also in the eighth grade.
Camden Managora holds down the No. 5 spot and is only a freshman. The No 6 singles player Grayson Estey is a sophomore while No. 7 player Ben Shannon is a senior.
The remainder of the team includes Davey Kenser, Gibson Ohlson, Owen Gregory, Josh Ray, Wyatt Waters, Felix Shannon and Blaine Player. 
Esse is the captain and leader of the Iron Horses.
“He is the team leader and the most improved player on the team from last year,” Schulz said. “He has worked in the weight room. And, he has embraced the (leadership) role like others before him. Leadership is what makes good teams great.”
So does coaching. 
Schulz has been a coach on and off for five decades. The flame, the love of the sport, keeps burning and keeps Schulz going. He’s not into coaching for the glory – or money in this instance. What he wants to see is a player who wants to get better and who works hard in practice, pretty much the same recipe used in classroom success.
He also wants his players to succeed at the next level.
“We are really young,” Schulz said. “They love playing hard in practice, and they improve every day. They support each other and have already developed into a team.”
The Iron Horses might be young. But they are playing the usual heavyweights: Oceanside Collegiate Academy, Academic Magnet, Porter-Gaud and Bishop England loom on an intense schedule.
Stay tuned.

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