By Anthony Fiorello firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Trying to duplicate a 13-1 record and a regular-season championship is hard to do for any sports team. But it's even harder when most of your key players from that season are no longer on the team.
Such is the case for the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks boys tennis team. The Jacks will attempt to repeat the success they had last year without John Michael LeMar and Zack and Nick Nolan, who were among the team's best singles and doubles players.
“It's going to be tough replacing those guys, no question about it,” coach John LeMar said. “But I think that we'll definitely be up for the challenge despite having a lot of new players and a lot of guys who have never played before. They'll learn how to play the game and hopefully become the next generation of guys who can lead our team.”
LeMar said that seniors Andrew LeMar (John's youngest son and reigning News Co-Player of the Year) and Joe Piotrowski will be looked at to carry the team throughout the 2014 season. LeMar went unbeaten last year and was crowned the Niagara Frontier League's doubles champion along with his brother John Michael.
“I think they both should continue to do well, especially Andrew,” John said. “But I think that it's going to be very interesting to see what he can do without John Michael. This will be the first year that he'll be competing without his brother in the lineup beside him. But I think he should turn out just fine in the end.”
After a three-year absence, the Tonawanda Warriors boys tennis team will return to the court in the spring of 2014.
The program was cut for a multitude of reasons, and there were questions whether the it would ever come back. But now that it has, the team isn't just looking forward to getting back on the court — the Warriors are already aiming to win a state championship, despite a lack of experienced tennis players.
“I think the fact that our team is back after a prolonged absence is very good for our school,” head coach Ashley Feyler said. “There's no doubt that we're going to be seen as huge underdogs all season because we don't have a lot of guys who have played tennis before, but from day one, we've set our sights pretty high and there's no reason to not aim for lofty goals.”
Two players in particular will be counted upon to play well in the Warriors' comeback season — seniors Jordan Hughes and Mike Vaccaro, who both have athletic experience in multiple sports.
“We have a bunch of guys on our roster, including Hughes and Vaccaro, who have been swimmers, bowlers and soccer players, but the only type of tennis that anyone has played here has been Wii tennis,” Feyler said. 'It's going to be a challenge to teach them how to play the game, for sure, but I'm looking forward to it.”
Feyler said that the Warriors will take their lumps early on, but all signs point towards a successful first season back.
“I can tell that these guys are going to win and have success,” Feyler said. “We like having that role of an underdog, because no one thinks that we'll accomplish much without any experience. We'll work hard at it and see how it goes.”
Coming off of a 4-10 season, the Kenmore West Blue Devils boys tennis team have high hopes heading into the 2014 season.
This isn't due to additions of any new players or a new coach. The Blue Devils feel as if their woeful record from the previous season can easily be turned around if a few small bounces go their way.
“I'm very excited going into this year,” seventh-year head coach Lisa Siegal said. “A lot of our losses from last year were only by one point, so since they were so close, I think that we can definitely turn it around and have a much improved season this year with a little bit of luck.”
Junior Nick Agallah and seniors Niko Mankuso and Vladomir Bubovac, all singles players, will return to bolster the Blue Devils' roster.
“I've had Vladomir since the seventh grade, Niko since the eighth and Nick since the ninth and they've been phenomenal,” Siegal said. “They'll be counted on to anchor our singles players, which should be the strength of our team.”
Despite the Kenmore East Bulldogs not having a successful season in 2013, head coach Dave Coates believes that the team can make strides in 2014 toward becoming a much more competitive tennis club.
Though the team finished last season with less than five wins and lost top singles players Alex Lisowski and Joe Crawford to graduation, Coates thinks the team's current best singles player, sophomore Frank Wozinak, will be more than ready to take on the challenge of leading the Bulldogs in 2014.
“We have a lot of inexperienced guys on our roster, but Wozniak's a very good player and has more room to grow,” Coates said. “When you've been where we were last season, you can't do anything but improve. I anticipate that we will do that in 2014.”
The Bulldogs will try to make up for their inexperience with hard work and by gaining more seasoning as the year goes on, according to Coates.
“We've got a very hard-working team, but we just don't have a lot of guys who have been through a lot of matches,” Coates said. “I think that we'll be able to grow and get better as the season goes on. Not to make excuses, but most of our guys are beginners. But they want to learn how to play the game at a high level, and in order for that to happen, they need to play games. I'm looking forward to helping them become better tennis players this year.”Follow @tonanewssports on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.