Third-year Oak Harbor boys tennis coach Rick LaFountain doesn't mince words when discussing the Rockets' success.
It's all attributed to one thing.
"The kids really worked hard in the off season," LaFountain said. "
We have three kids who played pretty much every day year round at Bay Winds in Sandusky, and one other kid played quite a bit. Four of our (top) seven were playing pretty much daily, and that separates us from most other teams."
Three matches into this season, the Rockets have posted 5-0 wins over Rossford, Fremont St. Joe and Norwalk.
"Two years ago we played Rossford, and they should be contenders in the NLL this year," LaFountain said. "A couple years ago they beat us 4-1 and last year we beat them 4-1, and we beat them 5-0 this year. A lot of that is because our kids are working hard. All of them kind of got hooked on tennis three or four years ago and they've been playing quite a bit since."
Oak Harbor's strength is its singles lineup, led by sophomore Greg LaFountain, the coach's son. LaFountain returns at No. 1 singles after posting a 19-12 record and earning second-team All-Sandusky Bay Conference honors as a freshman. He also won a sectional title.
"His strength is serve-and-volley and putting the ball at the net," coach LaFountain said. "He has a different style than a lot of players have. He's got a big forehand, he's got good hands at the net and he tries to force kids to hit a lob to beat him. He's pretty successful in getting into the net and winning points up there."
The Rockets also have reliable players in seniors Bobby Lochotzki and Cliff Goetz at second and third singles, respectively.
Lochotzki was 20-12 last year at second singles.
"Bobby is very steady and has great groundstokes," LaFountain said. "He keeps the ball coming back and he's able to outlast his opponents. He is a real smart player, and his strength is keeping the ball back and hitting aggressive shots."
Goetz finished 21-11 last season.
"He's got a pretty decent all-around game," LaFountain said. "He has a big forehand and a big backhand. He goes for everything and he's real aggressive. On any given day our singles players could beat each other. That's where our strength is, with our singles."
Senior Dereck Witt and junior Brandon Wasserman team up at No. 1 doubles. They played together last year and finished 21-11, earning second-team all-conference honors.
"They're both tall kids," LaFountain said. "They are both 6-3, 6-4 and good at the net, with good serves. They both have good heads on their shoulders. They have good hands and they play well together. They seem to know where the other one is going to be. They're going to win a lot of matches."
Junior Kevin Young and Christoph Koeglmayr, an exchange student from Germany, have played well at second doubles. Last year Young and Adam Lenke, who has graduated, combined to go 22-10 and earned second-team All-SBC honors.
"Kevin's pretty good at the baseline and Christoph is good at the net," LaFountain said. "Kevin is about 6-5 and Christoph is a shorter, quicker guy and he can cover Kevin's back. All of these (doubles) guys are pretty good singles players, but with the lineup we have, it's hard to crack the singles lineup."
Nick Johnson, a junior, has filled in at various spots for the Rockets.
"He's kind of like our sixth man and he's played well," LaFountain said. "He got his first varsity win teaming with Brandon Wasserman, and that was a good win for him at second doubles. With any other team, he'd be one of their starting seven."
The Rockets will try to unseat Port Clinton as the top team in the SBC. Oak Harbor finished second behind the Redskins last season. LaFountain said Sandusky St. Mary should also be a contender this year.
"I feel pretty confident with our doubles teams," the coach said. "We're going to have to try to get a singles win against Port Clinton. They have three very good singles players. On any given day, our kids could beat their kids. That's what I'm hoping is going to happen, that we'll have one of those days."