That was the situation Ed Hullender was put in when he took the head-coaching job at North Cobb, and he had his difficulties early when the Warriors lost their first three matches of the season.
But even during those losses, Hullender knew there was potential with a group of young, but talented, players coming in.
Once he put those players in the right positions, North Cobb started cruising. The Warriors embarked on a 14-match winning streak, defended their Region 4AAAAAA championship and made a run to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals.
For his efforts, Hullender is the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Tennis Coach of the Year.
“Needless to say, I was concerned because I knew that our expectations were going to be high,” Hullender said. “I think what happened as we got along — we played Lassiter and Walton, which are tough powers. We played Wheeler. We lost 3-2, but we knew we could play. And when we went to the LaGrange tournament, we knew that we could play with just about anybody.”
North Cobb’s season took a turn for the better in mid-March, when the Warriors made the finals of the Granger Invitational. The Warriors beat Blessed Trinity in the semifinals with a depleted roster before falling to North Gwinnett in the championship.
Despite losing at the end of the Granger Invitational, Hullender had his starting lineup.
In watching his team perform, Hullender discovered that Jake Tuchmann and Preston Lahmann would make a strong No. 1 doubles pair. He also sensed that Grant Westbrook and Hunter Essendelft would work well at No. 2 doubles.
“What we wanted work on this year was our doubles games, and I think we succeeded pretty well, and it shows the depth of the North Cobb program,” Hullender said.
When asked how he chose his doubles teams, Hullender said all four players had really quick hands at the net. Lahmann is stands more than 6 feet tall and has a strong serve, which is normally a solid No. 1 doubles trait. Meanwhile, Essendelft and Westbrook had played doubles together in the past, and they had good chemistry on the court.
In regards to singles play, Rohman Mitchell jumped to No. 1 after playing No. 3 last season behind Jaryd Reese and Andre Canino, and Hullender felt Richard Johnson would make a great fit at No. 2, with Ronak Mody No. 3.
“We knew that it was Rohman and Richard, and we felt like Rohman was slightly better than Richard,” Hullender said, “though, some days, Richard might have gone No. 1, but Richard makes a strong No. 2.”
One of North Cobb’s tougher wins of the season came against Lowndes in the first round of the state tournament. The Warriors escaped with a 3-2 victory, with Mody winning a three-setter for the final point.