SHERIDAN — Ethan Kutz knew the change would come. He knew the level of competition would stand much taller and stiffer. And so far, Sheridan’s star tennis player has faced that challenge and embraced his new post as the team’s No. 1 singles player.

“I feel like I’m getting adjusted to it really well,” Kutz said. “It’s a lot more fun. There are a lot better players, and it’s a lot more competition.”

Last year, Quinton Suska played No. 1 singles for the Broncs. He spearheaded Sheridan’s lineup and challenged the best tennis players the state had to offer. However, his graduation in the spring left a hole at the top.

Kutz put in quite a bit of time in the offseason to help with the transition up the depth chart. He logged countless court hours with his friends and sister Julia Kutz — the No. 1 singles player for the Lady Broncs. Both Kutzs attended tennis tournaments in Billings and Rapid City in an effort to improve.

Ethan Kutz now has quite a few matches under his belt at No. 1 singles and had represented himself just fine under the rigors of his new label. He’s dominated the majority of his competition, winning four of his five matches in two sets while his only loss of the season, against Jackson’s Nate Fairbanks, went three sets.

“I feel like it was kind of a shock, at first, to realize how much better the players are in No. 1 singles,” Kutz said. “I really had to bump up my game level.”

Kutz will look to continue that level of play in a pair of duals slated for Friday. Sheridan hosts Cheyenne Central and Cheyenne East starting at 9 a.m. as the Broncs inch closer to the conference and state tournaments.

The boys team boasts a 4-1 record with its only loss coming at Jackson, while the girls lay claim to a 3-2 record.

The boys team boasts a 4-1 record with its only loss coming at Jackson, while the girls lay claim to a 3-2 record. Both teams have broken in plenty of rookies and players that have had to evaluate their respective games — similar to Kutz — as they play a larger role in 2018.

“I think it’s going pretty well, so far,” Julia Kutz said. “Our team is pretty new. We have a lot freshman and sophomores who just started playing, so I think, as a whole, our team is going to improve a lot this season.”

Aside from what a typical practice entails — conditioning, footwork drills, hitting exercises, forehand, backhand, serves and volleys — Sheridan players also go to Thorne-Rider Park on a weekly basis with assistant coach Toby Laird to work on singles and doubles strategies.

“We talk about hitting the angles, hitting out wide and hitting close to the sidelines,” Ethan Kutz said. “You don’t want to hit it down the middle because if you just keep hitting down the middle you’re not going to win the points that way.

“We just really go over how to make your opponent work more.”

Kutz and the rest of his teammates with look to make the Indians and Thunderbirds work Friday in order to extend their four-match win streak and stay near the top of the conference, while the Lady Broncs hope to vault themselves closer to that upper echelon.