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Sports

Versatile Manchester boys tennis team ‘balanced’

5/1/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

NEW FRANKLIN — Manchester High School boys tennis head coach Steve Strasser said his team has set the goal of finishing with a record above .500 — while also showing continuous improvement as the season progresses.

“We have a lot of teams on the schedule twice, so I would like to see us win some of the matches we lost the first time around or tighten up the scores in the rematches,” he said. “That would be some proof of improvement from the team and set a good foundation for next year, when everyone should return.”

Through April 30, Manchester was out to a 3-5 start, with victories over Claymont, Ellet and North high schools. Strasser said he has seen “definite improvement” from his team recently.

“The weather kind of made it tough earlier in the season to get into any type of rhythm. We only had a couple practices before matches started, and those were tough conditions,” he said. “Now that we have been playing and practicing with some consistency, I am seeing improvement throughout the team.”

Even though this year’s team features four returning letter-winners, the second-year coach said it is “still a young team.”

“We do not have any seniors, and of our four juniors, one (Nate Metzgar) is playing tennis for the first time and another (Dave Squires) is getting his first varsity action,” he stated. “This has led to us struggling at the top end of our lineup — especially first singles — but we have been well balanced in the positions behind that.”

According to Strasser, twin brothers Kyle and Brian Coben are the “veterans” of the team.

“They are juniors and have played all three years,” he said. “They both lettered last year, playing a lot at second doubles and third singles. This year, they have been asked to take a step up and have done a nice job. They have been penciled in at first singles, second singles and occasionally first doubles and have competed every match.”

The team’s primary first doubles team has been Daniel Mundy and Joe Daniels.

“Daniel Mundy is a sophomore who lettered last year as a freshman and has continued to develop. He will be a nice player for our program if he continues to improve. Daniel hits a nice serve and is strong at the net. He has been impressive at first doubles and has played some singles,” the coach said. “His usual partner at first doubles, Joe Daniels, has come on strong this last week. He has worked hard in practice to smooth out his ground strokes and played his best match of the year recently against Firestone.”

Metzgar and sophomore Logan Mospens are playing second doubles for Manchester this season.

“This is Nate’s first year playing and he has been a great addition to the team. He is very coachable and is going to get better the more he plays. He is beginning to hit some nice strokes in practice, and the next step for him is to take that to the match,” Strasser said. “Logan has been a good partner for him at second. Both of them are laid back personalities who seem to mesh really well as a team. Logan has shown improvement in his backhand and forehand from last year. He is also more confident at the net and is finishing points with good volleys when given the change.”

Rounding out the starters is Squires, who is seeing his first varsity playing time this year.

“He has been solid, playing mostly third singles,” the coach said. “He is always hustling to keep himself in points and has won three of his last four matches at third singles.”

Strasser said Manchester is looking for a player to step up and take a firm grasp of the No. 1 spot.

“As far as a weakness, our most glaring one is that we do not have a guy who can go out there and hit it with the No. 1s on some of the other teams,” he stated. “We don’t really have someone who has the big serve and powerful ground strokes needed to compete at first singles, match in and match out. That is the big difference from last year’s team and this year’s team.”

Overall, however, this year’s team is well balanced and the players are versatile, Strasser said.

“There is not a huge gap in abilities between most of our experienced players. This has allowed me to mix and match some lineups and see who fit best where,” he said. “The second half of the season will probably see more of a set lineup, but it has been great to be able to move some kids around and give them experience in both singles and doubles.”

Strasser said the eagerness shown by his players to improve will help them as the regular season winds down and the postseason approaches.

“They are a very coachable and have a great attitude regarding the sport,” he stated. “They are willing to try new ways and different techniques in an effort to get better and play the game the correct way. They are always upbeat and positive, which has made them a joy to coach. They never seem to get discouraged and always are loose and having fun.”

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