This season looked to be a challenging one for the Hampshire boys tennis team, which was in its first year playing in the Fox Valley Conference.
The Whip-Purs, under coach Jon Betts, answered that challenge with a 25-3 overall record in duals and 10-3 in FVC duals. Their only losses came against the perennially dominant three Crystal Lake schools.
Coming from the Big Northern Conference, which has limited schools with tennis programs, Betts said playing in the FVC was a great experience for his team. The Whip-Purs were in only their fourth season as a tennis program.
“Obviously, it was something we were looking forward to after bouncing around the past two years,” Betts said. “It was nice getting into the conference and having a high level of competition.”
The team’s accomplishments are even more remarkable considering that when Betts started the program, none of the Hampshire players had played much tennis before high school.
“We really didn’t have any players four years ago that had hit a tennis ball,” Betts said.
For his accomplishments, Betts has been named the Northwest Herald Boys Tennis Coach of the Year, as selected by the sports staff with input from local coaches.
Also given strong consideration were Crystal Lake Central’s Molly Czeslawski and Prairie Ridge’s Sam Sweeney. The Tigers won the FVC Fox Division regular-season title and the Cary-Grove Sectional team championship. The Wolves won the Valley Division title and the FVC Meet.
Betts credited his players with putting in the extra work necessary to be successful.
I couldn’t have asked for more of my boys,” Betts sadi. “They came every single day and played with great intensity.”
Although the team didn’t have the experience of resume of other local players, Hampshire narrowed that gap with a strong work ethic.
“They’ve really put in so much work,“ Betts said. “I think I have the hardest -working group of boys in the state.”
Jacobs coach Jim Benson said he was impressed with what the Hampshire team was able to accomplish in a short amount of time. He said the success is a testament to Betts’ coaching and leadership.
“Jon has shown the most amount of dedication and effort in his coaching than I have ever seen before,“ Benson said. “His athletes at Hampshire had all of the qualities that any coach could dream of, but they gained them from their coach.”
Doing it in a place like Hampshire that has little tennis history was remarkable, Benson said.
“[It’s] an absolute accomplishment with the lack of club training and even the slightest bit of tennis background,“ Benson said. “Betts had taught those boys everything they know and has helped develop fine young men.’
Betts again deferred all of the credit to his players. Whether it was replacing, on their own, a net at a local court that was falling apart or participating in offseason conditioning, the Hampshire players made up with effort what they lacked in experience or resources.
“It’s one of those groups that I was just lucky to have the opportunity to work with,” Betts said.