Ne­wark High’s boys ten­nis team off to best start in re­cent years

Newark Post - - Sports - By JON BUZBY jon­buzby@hot­mail.com

The sport of ten­nis is sup­posed to be a quiet one.

But the Ne­wark High boys’ ten­nis team is mak­ing plenty of noise this sea­son as the Yel­low­jack­ets are off to one of their best starts ever.

“I can’t re­mem­ber the last time we started a sea­son with six straight wins,” 16th-year coach John Tay­lor said af­ter the team’s 3-2 win over Mid­dle­town on Mon­day. “As a team we’ve re­ally pulled to­gether. It’s an ex­cit­ing start for us.”

Ne­wark was handed its first loss of the sea­son on Tues­day when the Yel­low­jack­ets were shut out by Char­ter School of Wilm­ing­ton. But de­spite los­ing to a team Tay­lor con­sid­ers to be the fa­vorite to win the Blue Hen Con­fer­ence, the 6-0 start to the sea­son will go down as one of the best in school his­tory.

“We’ve been an av­er­age team the past few years,” Tay­lor pointed out. “But they are start­ing to play the right shots. They’re try­ing to re­duce the num­ber of er­rors, which is what the game is about at this level. It’s more about re­duc­ing er­rors than hit­ting win­ners.”

Still, the Yel­low­jack­ets have hit their share of win­ners. Tay­lor cred­ited the good start to the fact that the lineup in­cludes six juniors who have all played since they were fresh­men. Zach Dakin and Nathan Coff­ing com­pete at first and sec­ond sin­gles, re­spec­tively, and the dou­bles teams of Ah­mad Mageid and Chaz Knox, and Ai­dan Galileo and Reid Ha­gan have been a key fac­tor in the team’s early suc­cess.

“The dou­bles team have re­ally car­ried the team,” Tay­lor said of the two pairs who were un­de­feated un­til the Char­ter match. “Ah­mad and Chaz have great chem­istry and bal­ance each other out. If one is high, the other is steady, and they end up bring­ing each other back to the mid­dle.

“Ai­dan and Reid’s big­gest strength is they re­ally com­ple­ment each other well with their strokes,” he added.

The lone non-ju­nior in the start­ing lineup is fresh­man Zach Coff­ing. He jumped out to a 5-0 start at third sin­gles be­fore drop­ping his first match of the year against Mid­dle­town.

“Zach is very tena­cious,” Tay­lor said. “He re­fuses to back down, even as a fresh­man. His men­tal tough­ness is one of the best I’ve seen in a fresh­man in a long time.”

Dakin has strug­gled at first sin­gles, which of­ten hap­pens when a player is fac­ing the other team’s best player day in and day out. But Tay­lor is con­fi­dent his top player will pick up some wins along the way.

“He is so quick and ag­ile,” Tay­lor ex­plained. “That’s his big­gest strength. He gets to ev­ery ball.”

Nathan Coff­ing’s great­est as­set is his serve, ac­cord­ing to Tay­lor, and the fact that his pre­vi­ous dou­bles ex­pe­ri­ence also en­ables him to in­stinc­tively get to the net, which he uses to his ad­van­tage when­ever he can.

Se­nior Thomas Kit­son is the first man off the bench when needed in a lineup loaded with good ath­letes.

“They are all good ath­letes,” Tay­lor said. “That’s what’s re­ally been a help. Most of them play soc­cer or swim or run cross-country. I’ve been blessed to be able to get them to come out for ten­nis and now that they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced some suc­cess that goes a long way. I think they just en­joy the game.”

Tay­lor has been teach­ing phys­i­cal and health ed­u­ca­tion and anatomy at Ne­wark since 1992. He never played ten­nis com­pet­i­tively in high school, but that lack of ex­pe­ri­ence didn’t de­ter him from tak­ing the job when it was of­fered to him 16 years ago.

“When I first took the job, it seemed like the right place at the right time,” he re­called. “The sport doesn’t get a lot of at­ten­tion, but you can play it your whole life. I’m try­ing to in­still in my play­ers to keep go­ing out and stay ac­tive. The team works hard at prac­tice. Their ex­pe­ri­ence is com­ing out a lit­tle bit and their at­ti­tude is just re­ally good.”

And like a lot of high school coaches, it is the play­ers more than any amount of wins that keeps him com­ing back year af­ter year.

“I love the play­ers’ en­ergy level and the way they seem to re­spond to me in that they seem to en­joy the game and we en­joy each other,” he said, smil­ing. “I just en­joy watch­ing the kids be­gin to de­velop, and then when they start to get a lit­tle suc­cess it’s ex­cit­ing.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF NE­WARK HIGH SCHOOL

Zach Dakin is the top sin­gles player for Ne­wark High School, which is off to a 6-0 start this sea­son.

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