DHS Boys tennis (Simmons, Bowman, Mason, Franke)

Featured on the Derby boys tennis roster are (L to R): Scott Simmons, Isaak Bowman, Pierre Mason, Evan Franke.

It’s hard for Dennis Burns not to look back at 2020 and wonder what could have been.

Even as the top three spots were claimed, another eight seniors were fighting to fill out his varsity roster.

“It was going to be fun to see that competition,” he added.

Now 12 months later, that class has departed and it gives way to a young, but talented group.

The junior class has become the crux of the Derby tennis roster, potentially placing three of them in the varsity lineup.

Its most experienced player is junior Scott Simmons, who qualified for Class 6A state doubles as a fresh- man alongside his older brother, Clayton. Burns said he brings an added edge to the Panther roster and, similar to his first year, he will begin the year playing singles.

The Derby coach hopes Simmons can continue to build off his experience of playing with senior- laden rosters in season’s past.

“[Scott] has the most experience at the highest level and has seen a lot of players,” Burns said. “He hates to lose and it’s what’s nice about him playing multiple sports … we are going to try to use that mentality as a driving force.”

Burns said that junior Evan Franke was in contention to make the top six as a sophomore and remains a strong candidate now.

“Evan is a good athlete and he just moves so well,” the Derby coach said. “He is a cross country runner, so you’re not going to wear him out. I was looking forward to seeing him.”

Junior Pierre Mason was on the “outside, looking in” as a freshman, but Burns remains excited to see what he can offer their lineup.

Burns was eager for the arrival of freshman Isaak Bowman, sharing that he felt he had the chance to become the first Derby boys’ tennis player to reach 100 career wins.

The cancelled season put a major damper on that opportunity, but the longtime coach remains high on his now sophomore as he prepares to play singles.

He recalled watching Bowman play as soon as fifth grade, seeing skills that weren’t even as prevalent at the high school level.

“He always made perfect contact,” Burns said. “When he needed to make contact, he’d always square it up.”

While Bowman stands on the court with a small frame, Burns said he brings some significant skill as a younger player.

“A lot of it has to do with growing up with his brother, [Jarrett],” Burns said. “He has competed with him and he is the best he has seen over time. People are going to look at him … wondering who this kid is. He can hit

depth and play the ball and it won’t take long for the word to get around that he can play.”

The longtime coach is eager to see the development outside of his top returning players.

Senior Ben Palivan will get an opportunity to stake his claim on the varsity roster.

“He has played so much and he’ll definitely be in the mix,” Burns added.

Burns pointed out the edge that brothers Alex and Colby Hedden can bring thanks to their competitiveness and ability in the bowling alley. The brothers speak to not knowing the depth of the full roster due to the lost season in 2020.

They had some good preseason tournaments [last year], but we didn’t get to see them play in competition,” Burns said. “We lost a lot of that momentum with a large part of our team.”

A WORD FROM 2020: Scott Simmons 

A: What was the biggest lesson you learned personally after losing last season due to COVID-19? 

Personally COVID-19 reminds me of an injury. In a blink of an eye your season could end. So it taught me that anything can happen so enjoy every day like it’s your last and don’t take it for granted.

Q: With the spring season being cancelled, what were some of the workouts or training tools you used to keep going through the spring?

A: I went to the gym every day and trained as much as possible with the circumstances going on at the time. All I knew is that I wanted to come back stronger than the year before.

Q: Do you believe that your two sports, tennis and soccer, help each other? If so, why?

A: I definitely think that soccer and tennis help each other. does but when I need them on the field I can always rely on them. For tennis, soccer helps with my durability on the court so I won’t get as tired as my opponent might.

Q: The tennis team will be using a lot of new faces this spring. Who are two or three players you're most excited about as they try to claim a spot on the varsity roster? 

A: Some of the new faces that I am excited to see compete for a varsity spot are Colby Hedden, Collin Meyer, and Boaz Day. There are so many more but with these three men I see the great potential that they can be. I can’t wait to see them as they improve throughout the season.



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