St. Charles North boys tennis coach Sean Masoncup is in uncharted territory this spring.
Masoncup has kept the North Stars in the upper tier of the Upstate Eight Conference on a foundation of excellent doubles play, but in what Masoncup acknowledges is a rebuilding season, whatever success the North Stars manage will likely come with his singles lineup leading the way.
“I love to play doubles, we’ve had some great success, but this year, that’s not going to be our strong point,” Masoncup said. “Our strong point is going to be singles.”
That starts with senior Dominick Amalraj, who is gearing up for his first go-round at No. 1 singles after splitting time between singles and doubles throughout this North Stars career. He played No. 2 singles as a sophomore before teaming with Danny Oakes to form a powerhouse No. 1 doubles team last year.
Amalraj picked a good time to ascend to No. 1 singles, one year after the graduation of Batavia star Josh Cogan, who owned the Tri-Cities tennis scene during his stellar four-year career.
In terms of conference prospects, “That’s a good thing,” Amalraj said.
“There’s still Jasper [Koenen],” Amalraj said. “He’s a great player [at St. Charles East], and then there are good players all over. Batavia has Ryan Sterling, he’s a good player, Geneva will have a good player. It’s going to be hard, but I feel like it’s going to be a little more open this year, with Josh out of it.”
While the seasoned Amalraj gives North a formidable player atop its lineup, Masoncup also is high on his other singles threats.
Sophomore Grant Spellman, who qualified for the IHSA State Tournament as a freshman in doubles, and promising freshman Matt Ernst will complement Amalraj.
“I had the idea of putting Dom and Grant together but Dom is being recruited by [Division I schools] for singles, and they wanted to see him play in singles,” Masoncup said.
Amalraj said Illinois-Chicago is among his college tennis suitors but he is not yet certain he will keep playing collegiately.
A big spring might coax him to keep pushing for four more years.
“I’m going to see how the season goes, see how I like it, see how I’m playing, then talk to my family, talk to my friends and try to make the best decision I can,” Amalraj said.
The North Stars have had to practice indoors in recent weeks because of the weather, which has delayed the timetable of solidifying doubles teams because of limited court space.
But regardless of how the pairings play out, once North’s season begins Tuesday at Neuqua Valley, the North Stars know they’ll need to overhaul their formula for success.
“We don’t have the [doubles] teams we had when I was a freshman or sophomore for sure,” Amalraj said. “We’re still a talented team but we need to get as many points as we can, and so it starts with singles. We need to make sure we play hard every single match and get as many points as we can.”