Because of low numbers, the Mt. Carmel boys tennis team will not play any scheduled matches this spring.
Instead, the three players coach Patty Bramlet has out for the team could play as individuals when the IHSA state tournament series begins in May.
“I wish I had the answer, because it’s heartbreaking,” said Bramlet. “We have nice courts. But we couldn’t have a team with just three players.”
Last year, the same thing almost happened. Enough kids who had never played before were eventually recruited, which worked out well for at least one of them. Davis Vargo joined with Doug Sievers to form a doubles team that advanced all the way to the IHSA state tournament.
“We had kids come out as seniors last year who really liked it,” Bramlet said. “Sometimes there are seniors there who think they want to try it. This senior class didn’t happen to be one of those.”
Sievers, fighting a nagging shoulder injury, returns this year along with Levi James and freshman Jacob Williams.
Bramlet still holds out hope for a resurgence in interest next year and into the future.
“We have some kids who aren’t old enough yet, they’re in sixth and seventh grade. We’ll try to get into the schools and do a little recruiting,” she said.
Mt. Carmel Middle School also has one unit of tennis built in their Physical Education curriculum, in gym class, which Bramlet hopes will spark some interest as the youngsters move into high school.
“There are a lot of schools in the same situation,” said Bramlet, point ing to schools like Flora and Carmi, which have battled numbers issues.
Bramlet, also the head coach of the Lady Aces program, is in her second season at the helm of the boys. The Lady Aces program does not suffer the numbers woe the boys team does.
“I think girls are more likely to try something new than guys,” Bramlet said. “I don’t know if they’re afraid they’re going to look bad.”
Declining school enrollment is one reason for the problem, but Bramlet believes it is more than that.
“I don’t think kids are playing sports like they used to,” Bramlet said. “None of the sports have the numbers they used to.”
The Aces were scheduled to open the season Monday.