NEWBURYPORT — As Newburyport boys tennis co-captains, Dan Orencole and Chris Kirkpatrick should be able to fall back on the memories of their predecessors of the past two years. There’s only one problem: The Clippers didn’t have a captain on the court during that time.
“It’s the first time that we’ve had the chance to have a captain on our team,” said Kirkpatrick, a junior.
Kirkpatrick has been playing varsity since he was a freshman, and Orencole, a senior, has been playing doubles since sophomore year. Both started during the same season two years ago when then-captain Trevor Updike broke his wrist and missed much of the season. Then, last year’s captain Sam Ettenborough tore his ACL in a skiing accident before the season began. Both the previous captains were still available to help their team, but they weren’t playing on the court. Barring any unforseen incidents, Orencole and Kirkpatrick should be able to pick up the slack this year.
“Our coach sets a pretty good example (of leadership),” Orencole said of second-year coach Courtney Gilman. “He’s pretty humble. And Chris Kirkpatrick, seeing him dominate in the USTA in tournaments and stuff, makes us try a bit harder as a unit.”
Kirkpatrick has indeed put together a solid tennis resume, having won four individual USTA titles while playing for the New England Nor’Easters.
“It’s tough to live up to him,” Orencole said of Kirkpatrick. “But using him (in practice) to have kids hit with him helps everyone on the team. Because if you want to get better you have to play with kids that are better than you, and he’s one of the best kids in the Cape Ann League.”
Helping the younger players with their game is the most important job for a captain.