This crazy, pandemic-delayed, confusion-reigns high school sports season has knocked plenty of local teams back on their heels. Training has been delayed or interrupted, schedules have been changed. Many teams have struggled with the situation.
But don’t place the Southgate tennis team in that category.
Coach Ryan Furkas’ team bolted out of the gate this season, winning seven straight matches (two of them league matches) and finishing second – by one point – at an invitational the Titans hosted earlier this season.
“It’s been great so far,” said Furkas. “When we got together to begin the season, I was surprised and happy how everyone played. It was clear that they had hit all summer and some of them took lessons.”
Furkas said the program began a bit of a rebuild three years ago. Last year was a tough one as the young squad struggled to find its footing against varsity competition.
Things have changed as the calendar turned to 2020.
Senior Dylan Faber claimed the No. 1 singles spot after a spirited challenge from junior John Demou. Demou became the team’s very strong No. 2 singles player.
“I feel like – and I’ve told the kids this – we have two No. 1s. It’s just that one of them has to play No. 2,” said Furkas.
Senior Zach Koerber holds down the fort at No. 3 singles and fellow senior Caeden Coffman is the team’s No. 4 man.
All of the singles players are team veterans. Faber was the No. 1 last year, Demou made the jump from doubles to No. 2, Koerber returned at No. 3 and Coffman split time at No. 4 a season ago.
Doubles for Southgate is a mostly junior affair with seven of the eight players being 11th-graders. The lone senior is Andrew Calhoun.
Andrew Parkham and Kevin Lucas play No. 1 doubles, Calhoun and Luke Piscitelli play No. 2, Jacob Gardner and Nolan Pesci play No. 3 and Josh Calhoun and Josh Wright round out the lineup at No. 4 doubles.
The Titans have 19 rostered players this season, which is right around normal, according to Furkas, but generally after school starts the coach is able to prowl the halls and gym classes and shake loose a few more players.
“Most of our good players are athletes,” said Furkas. “They are not year-round tennis players, who have taken lessons for a long time. Some teams have the luxury of that, but we have to go a different route.”
Southgate is remote learning only to begin the 2020-21 school year, so that avenue is closed off.
“I am still hopeful that we can convince a few more kids to come out,” Furkas said. “We’d love to have at least 24 players.”
Whatever the number ends up and however things go, Furkas said he is encouraging his players to enjoy their time on the court and realize that nothing is guaranteed.
He cites last spring for back up.
“Last spring we were very excited about the upcoming girls’ season,” he said. “I went home on a Wednesday, thinking we were going to have our first match on Thursday and then I got the call the season was cancelled.
“I locked up the tennis room the night before our scheduled first girls match and didn’t open it again until it was time for the boys to practice.
“We are just happy to be out here.”
2020 Southgate Boys Tennis
Dyan Faber, Senior
Zach Koerber, Senior
Caeden Coffman, Senior
Andrew Calhoun, Senior
John Demou, Junior
Andrew Parkham, Junior
Kevin Lucas, Junior
Luke Piscatelli, Junior
Jacob Gardner, junior
Nolan Pesci, Junior
Josh Caloun, AJunior
Josh Wright, Junior
Jake Vance, Junior
Josh Craig, Junior
Gage Vaananen, Junior
Blake Eldridge, Junior
Frankie Vilardi, Soph
Andrew Pipta, Soph
Nathan Jones, Soph