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Tennis gets started

As the Whitehall boys get back onto the tennis courts this season, they’ll feature a roster that’s sprinkled with varsity experience, and that will help form a strong nucleus for the upcoming season.

Of the ten players on this year’s squad, eight saw playing time in 2020, albeit an abbreviated season.

Still, they were able to get a taste of varsity action, and that experience should serve as a good foundation on which to build.

Head coach Robert Panny, who is entering his third season as the head coach, said that he’s working with “a great bunch of kids.”

While a large portion of them have been with the program a couple of years, last season would have been an opportunity for them to grow as players. Panny said it’s a matter of playing catch-up now, and he feels that in due time they will get up to speed.

“We’re making strides everyday,” said Panny.

Panny also said that their singles and doubles lineups are still a work in progress. He called it a fluid situation. While they’ve established the players who will occupy the 1-3 singles spots, Panny expects those players to challenge one another to see what that ultimately will produce.

Currently junior Joshua Laky is at No. 1 singles. Laky held that spot last season after playing at No. 2 doubles his freshman year.

“He’s a nice player,” said Panny. “He’s a player who works hard and is solid.”

Sophomore Nathan Mak is at No. 2 singles. Panny said that he’s a player who’s probably made more improvement in a year than anyone in the program. While schools across the state were closed last spring, Panny said that Mak used that time to play every day. Panny said that his jump from last year to this year has really been spectacular.

Occupying No. 3 singles is junior Daniel Labram. Panny said that he got some experience as doubles player during his freshman year, and was slated to be at No. 3 singles last season.

“He’s very steady, very dependable,” said Panny.

Their doubles pairings are a little more in flux. Panny said that the pandemic is still forcing them to juggle some things, but they’ve got some talented players who will help those combinations succeed.

At No. 2 doubles, junior Gabby Roustic will be paired with fellow junior Serge Kasparian. Roustic played a lot at No. 4 doubles with Labram in 2019, and his experience will help that duo stay competitive all season.

Junior Jimmy Kaba will be playing No. 3 doubles this season for the Zephs. In their opener against Allentown Central Catholic, Kaba and fellow junior Lex Prebosnyak held down that spot.

Also part of their doubles mix will be Antoni Szlagiewicz, Labram and Henry Le.

The Zephyrs will also feature junior Nick Schweitzer this season.

As the season unfolds, those combinations will be mixed and matched, as they look to find what works best among their roster of players.

The Zephyrs will be without any seniors on the roster, but Panny expects Laky to help fill that void. Panny said that he’s a quiet leader and the other players respond to him. He also said that it’s going to take everyone to help provide that leadership this season as they get accumulated to playing varsity tennis again.

“They have fun playing, and that all push each other,” said Panny. “We’re going to see what we can do.”

In 2019 they finished 7-8, the first time they finished below .500 in the last four seasons. With increasing numbers, they’ve seen a steady rise in the standings over that span. Panny would like that ascendancy to continue as the young players grow with the program.

The Zephyrs dropped that first match to the Vikings, 6-0. Their singles players all won games as Laky lost to Jessie Coulter, 6-1, 6-4.

At No. 2 singles, Mak lost to Tim Spinosa, 6-2, 6-2, while Labram was defeated in his No. 3 match by Dylan Alvarez, 6-1, 6-0.

In doubles, ACC’s Will Mcgylnn and Enzo Santizzi took down Labram and Henry Le at No. 1 doubles, 6-1, 6-1.

At No. 2 doubles, Vikings Jake Zeller and Dan Patruno defeated Roustic and Szlagiewcz, 6-2, 6-1, while the ACC combo of Allesio Flores and Matt Hetten bested Kaba and Presosnyak, 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 doubles.

Press photo by Steve Andres Josh Laky and the Whitehall boys tennis team warms up before a match this season.